A significant legal case involving the arrest of approximately 20 gang members during ‘Operation Save Our Streets’ has been rescheduled to the second week of November, shifting from its original date set for this week.
Assistant District Attorney Jimbo Yocom stated, “This is the first case from ‘Operation Save Our Streets’ where Minden police and other agencies arrested around 20 gang members within one week. The statute has never been used to dismantle a street gang, so we’re paving the way.”
The first gang member slated for trial, Latavion Thomas, showed interest in a plea deal, initially offered at 20 years with all but eight years suspended. However, Yocom mentioned that Thomas ultimately backed out at the last minute.
Judge Michael Craig was designated to preside over the trial, with Thomas facing charges related to criminal street gangs and patterns of criminal street gang activity. Yocom serves as the prosecutor, and Thomas Mayfield of Shreveport represents the defense.
“We will try all of the gang members separately,” Yocom added. “Thomas was chosen first based on previous crimes committed, his connection to the gang, his record of violent crimes, and the evidence connecting him to the gang.”
Yocom affirmed that when the case eventually proceeds to trial, evidence will be presented linking Thomas as a member of the TTS (Trained To Step) gang.
Over a year ago, a joint effort involving Minden police, an FBI task force, Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana Probation and Parole, U.S. Marshals Service, and Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest of 12 individuals associated with the gang. Subsequently, more arrests were made throughout the week.
The relevant law under which Thomas is being prosecuted was modified on Aug. 12, 2003, with further amendments to the punishment section on July 23, 2010. This statute criminalizes intentional involvement in a pattern of criminal gang activity.
Moreover, the statute stipulates that any individual over the age of 17 who encourages a child under 17 to join a criminal street gang, with a difference in age of at least three years between them, may face a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Lack of knowledge of the child’s age is not considered a defense.
The cases will be heard at the Webster Parish Courthouse, with the new trial date scheduled for November 13.