GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Fourteen men are facing charges in connection to what authorities are calling gang-related violence during the summer of 2019.
"Investigators worked very hard in many cases to solve these crimes," Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne said during a Tuesday press conference. "What we found was a lack of cooperation."
A lack cooperation among witnesses, and even victims in some cases, led the police department and the prosecutor's office to resort to tactics like investigative subpoenas and a one-man grand jury.
Raymond Barrios, 30, faces an open murder charge, the most serious of the charges announced Feb. 18 and he remains at large.
Police believe Barrios is responsible for the shooting death of 20-year-old Saul Espinoza. The shooting happened near the fish ladder during the city's fireworks show on July 6, 2019. Charges were issued for Barrios as a result of information that came to light through investigative subpoenas.
Using a one-man grand jury, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker estimates about a hundred witnesses were compelled to testify in 61st District Court, which led to 13 indictments and a total of 36 felony charges.
The charges range from perjury to carrying a concealed weapon to assault with intent to murder. The indictments also led to the recovery of 10 firearms.
"Experts at the Michigan State Police crime lab analyzed those guns. They are traced to 15 different house shootings and other shootings in the city," Becker said.
Other notable charges include an arrest in the shooting that happened outside of Union High School in August. Daniel Torrez faces multiple charges for his alleged involvement in the shooting, including three counts of assault with intent to murder and felony gang membership.
Armondo Torrez and Ryan Martinez were both charged with assault with intent to murder among other charges for their alleged roles in the Sept. 30, 2019 shooting on Jennette Avenue, where four minors were shot at.
The complete list of charges includes the following:
- Juan Alvarado-Gomez - Perjury
- Shaun Bell Jr. - Perjury, Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW)
- Shaun Bell Sr. - Felon in possession of a firearm
- Abraham Gutierrez-Delapaz - Perjury
- Devon Fouse - Perjury
- Ryan Martinez - Assault with intent to murder, Felony gang membership, felony firearm, armed robbery, CCW
- Yareni Martinez - Perjury
- Jesus Pena - discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, assault - great bodily harm, accessory after the fact
- Maricarmen Torrez-Terraza - Perjury
- Armondo Torrez - Assault with intent to murder, felony gang membership, felony firearm, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, assault - great bodily harm, armed robbery, CCW
- Daniel Torrez - Perjury, 3 counts of assault with intent to murder, felony gang membership, felony firearm
- Guillermo Vazquez-Villa - Perjury, CCW
- Tyronn Young - Perjury, CCW
- Raymond Barrios - Open Murder
The one-man grand jury was last utilized in 2004 under similar circumstances, Becker said. The process allows for the prosecutor to petition a court to hear testimony from witnesses. The judge then decides if a crime has been committed, which moves the case forward to circuit court.
Grand Rapids District Court Judge David J. Buter has presided over the roughly six-month investigation.
"It's a labor intensive for our office and it's labor intensive for the police department to serve these subpoenas," Becker said. "It takes up a lot of court time. These are not...over in 10 to 15 minutes, it can take an hour or two hours or longer."
Becker said the plan is to extend the grand jury process for another six months to continue investigating the crimes that have not yet been solved.
"Much has been done, but much more needs to be done. This is just a sampling," Becker said.
Becker and Payne agreed this should also serve as a call-to-action.
"This is something we don't want to have happen next summer," said Becker.
Payne said while this string of violence was concerning, the department expects overall crime numbers to be down in 2019. Those statistics will be finalized in the coming months.
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