A man from West Berkeley’s waterfront neighborhood has been in court with three associates before a Superior Court judge since last week after authorities say they tried twice to murder a man who disrespected him and his brother in videos posted on YouTube, as well as his cousin, who was killed in Berkeley last summer, on photography website Instagram.
Defense attorneys have argued that the case against the men is weak, and was blown out of proportion due to its initial connection to the high-profile fatal shooting of a young girl. The evidence against the men is based largely on surveillance and wiretap recordings of slang-ridden conversations that defense attorneys claim consisted more of tough talk than any actual murder plot.
On two dates in September, police say the men planned to shoot a man in Oakland who had been disrespectful in a rap song and other online videos. On both occasions, police responded to the area and say their presence stopped violence from occurring. Authorities said they recorded the group’s plans during a wiretap operation by the Oakland Police Department that started as part of the investigation into the death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland last summer. During that wiretap operation, police said they discovered the group’s plans and began a separate investigation into the alleged conspiracy.
The primary target in the conspiracy investigation began as 27-year-old Joseph Carroll Jr., who lived in Berkeley for much of his life. Carroll initially was charged along with a second man, Darnell Williams Jr., in Carradine’s killing. Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge in Oakland dismissed the charges against Carroll in that case, but upheld them against Williams.
Carroll, who has been incarcerated since Oct. 10, 2013, was not released. The Alameda County district attorney’s office immediately brought charges against him and three other men, all of whom have Berkeley ties, regarding what authorities said was a plan to kill at least one Oakland man who is associated with a North Oakland gang.
The preliminary hearing for the four men began earlier this month, and is set to continue through at least Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara in Oakland. The other defendants include Emando Roos, 36; Travon Wilson, 28; and Joseph Connors, 28.
Prosecutor Luis Marin of the Alameda County district attorney’s office has introduced wiretap recordings of 38 phone calls connected to the case. The calls took place Sept. 10 and Sept. 20-21. In those calls, authorities say the calls reveal plans to shoot down a man Carroll believed had disrespected him and his younger brother, Coleon, in a rap video posted online on YouTube, along with other comments and photos on Instagram related to Carroll’s cousin Jermaine Davis.
Police have previously described both brothers as “ringleaders” in West Berkeley’s Waterfront Gang, so named because many of its members live near the water and were linked to numerous violent crimes. In July 2009, the brothers were arrested along with a third man as part of a sweep of five Bay Area cities in a coordinated crackdown on gang violence in the East Bay. At the time, police said the men were “at the center of a long-running feud between groups in Berkeley and North Oakland,” according to media reports.
Coleon Carroll, who grew up on Seventh Street in West Berkeley, has been in custody since October 2010, and is facing murder and attempted murder charges related to the shooting death of Gary Ferguson Jr. that month. Authorities allege that Carroll, 24, served as the get-away driver in the case. Also charged in that homicide was Brandon Wallace, alleged to have been one of the shooters. A second shooter was never arrested or identified by police. Wallace and Carroll were described by authorities in court papers as “part of a gang in Berkeley called the waterfront gang.” The case has been dragging its way toward trial due to numerous attorney changes along the way by defendants.
Some members of the public have disputed the existence of a waterfront gang at all, and say “waterfront” is purely a description of a geographic area that residents associate with. Gang enhancements are not part of the prosecution in this case.
Wiretap recordings: tough talk or murder plot?
The roots of the wiretap investigation into the alleged conspiracy to commit murder date back to the July 17, 2013, slaying of Jermaine Davis, Carroll’s cousin, in the 1800 block of Derby Street in Berkeley shortly before 7 p.m. Davis, too, lived in the waterfront neighborhood and has been linked by authorities to past criminal activities associated with the Waterfront gang. Some who knew Davis said he had, in recent times, cleaned up his act, and tried to focus on being a positive role model for his younger relatives.
But that didn’t stop a man described by Carroll as a longtime friend of his, in a wiretap recording played in court last week, from allegedly confronting Davis on a Berkeley street and gunning him down one Wednesday last July.
Authorities say former Berkeley High student Antiown “Twanny” York had been on and off the phone that day with Davis. Eight minutes after the last call between the men, which took place at 6:44 p.m., Davis was shot to death. At least one person witnessed the shooting, according to court papers. There was initial speculation by some that Davis’ death had been connected in some way to the conviction of several North Oakland gang members who killed his brother in 2009, but some familiar with the case have said a personal dispute between York and Davis may have been the actual cause.
Friends of Davis, as well as his cousin Joseph Carroll, quickly began coming up with a plan to retaliate against York, according to authorities. One went to an Oakland home where York’s children lived and opened fire, killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and wounding three others. Carradine was a family friend who was visiting for a sleepover when the brutal shooting happened. (Darnell Williams Jr. is facing murder charges in that case.)
Authorities said, that same night, Carroll went to confront York at an Antioch gas station about the Davis killing. York denied involvement, and Carroll ultimately backed down, despite initial plans to shoot or kill him, according to wiretap recordings played last week.
But, according to the recordings, Carroll was still upset about his cousin’s death, and ultimately regretted not taking action when he had the chance. Police ultimately arrested York on Jan. 6. He has been charged with Davis’ killing and is set for a pre-trial hearing in April.
As part of their investigation into Carradine’s fatal shooting, Oakland Police officers sought warrants to launch a wiretap operation to help track down those responsible for her death.
The alleged conspiracy
In September, as part of that operation, Oakland Police officer Eric Karsseboom testified that he became aware of plans by Carroll — who was staying in Texas at the time — to coordinate a murder targeting two men who had disrespected him and his brother, Coleon, in a rap song posted on YouTube, as well as other videos. Posts on Instagram demeaning Jermaine Davis were also cited.
According to court papers, Carroll and defendant Emando Roos spoke by phone Sept. 10, and police say Roos told Carroll he was “gathering firearms and associates to retaliate. He asked Joseph Carroll for a large firearm. Joseph Carroll told Emando Roos that he had a large firearm in East Oakland.”
Later that day, at 1:07 p.m., police allege that Carroll got the address where the two men were, on Iris Street in East Oakland. He called defendant Travon Wilson, told him where they were “and asked him if he could shoot them,” according to court papers.
Police were monitoring Carroll’s phone calls, and sent marked patrol cars to Iris Street. At 2:17 p.m., police say Carroll informed Roos of the location, as well.
An hour later, Wilson called Carroll and told him he had gone to the location, but had been forced to leave because of the heavy police presence, according to authorities.
At 4:14 p.m., police say “Roos told Joseph Carroll that he had intended to commit the murder but was unable to [do] so due to the number of police officers in the area.” But he told Carroll he would try again at a later date, according to police.
Carroll was in Texas during this period, but authorities say he continued to try to orchestrate some kind of retaliation from afar. Police said Roos, Wilson and defendant Connors tried again Sept. 20 to shoot one of the men involved in the disrespectful posts. Just after 5 p.m., police say Carroll was told they would be at a club in Oakland that night. He told Roos the location, and informed him that he’d need a firearm, police say.
Roos, Wilson and Connors all went to the club, according to police, who set up a surveillance team along with special agents from the Department of Justice to monitor their activities. Shortly before 1 a.m., police say Connors spoke to Wilson and told him to come inside the club, and that he had a firearm.
At 1:15 a.m., police said one of the intended victims was seen leaving the club followed by Wilson and two unidentified males. As one of them approached the intended victim, officers swooped in.
Connors fled on foot and, according to police, discarded a loaded firearm along the way. He was arrested that night.
Roos and Wilson were arrested in a coordinated police operation Sept. 28, and Carroll was arrested in Texas that same day.
All four have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, a felony. Additionally, Connors has been charged with felony possession of a firearm by a felon, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
Connors, who attended Berkeley High according to his Facebook page, was convicted in 2010 for being an accessory after the fact, and in 2012 for possession of a firearm by a felon. Both are felonies.
Carroll was convicted in 2007 for evading a police officer, and in 2013 for possession of a firearm by a felon. Both are felonies.
Roos has four prior felony convictions: in 1999 for possession of cocaine base and marijuana for sale; in 2007 for shooting at an occupied vehicle; and in 2010 for possession of cocaine base. He grew up in the 1600 block of Russell Street, according to his Facebook page.
All three have served time in prison connected with their convictions.
Wilson has one prior felony conviction, for carrying a concealed firearm within a vehicle on Sept. 17, 2013. Wilson, too, grew up in Berkeley. His 17-year-old brother was killed in an unrelated shooting in Oakland last May. Both attended Berkeley schools.
Their mother said Tuesday that no one has been arrested in her younger son’s killing, and that police should focus more of their attention on finding his killer than on their investigation into Wilson.
The preliminary hearing for the four men is expected to conclude mid-week, at which point Judge Nakahara will decide whether enough evidence has been presented for the case to move forward to trial. They are being held without bail.
Dozens of family members and supporters of the four defendants have attended each session of the preliminary hearing, which had an initial session in early March, then started up again last week.
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