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Press Release

Detroit Street Gang Leader Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Following Convictions at Trial for Racketeering and Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT – A 38-year-old Detroit man was sentenced to life imprisonment today for murder, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, and other gang related crimes, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today.

Ison was joined in the announcement by James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Evidence at trial showed that Duane Peterson acted as the leader of “It’s Just Us” (IJU), a violent street gang. At its peak, the gang boasted 40 members. IJU terrorized the Detroit community from 2014 through the beginning of 2019 by engaging in violent acts, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. In May 2017, IJU ambushed a 33-year-old Detroit man for allegedly disparaging an IJU associate. Peterson chased the man down and executed him, shooting him in the back of the head while he lay dying on the ground.

In March 2018, Peterson and another IJU member opened fire on a carful of innocent bystanders who happened to be stopped at a red light and saw Peterson beating a female in a liquor store parking lot.

Evidence at trial also showed that Peterson ran a heroin/fentanyl drug conspiracy, with at least fifteen IJU members and associates distributing the deadly drugs in Detroit, Jackson, Flint, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Eight defendants were charged in the case. Seven previously pleaded guilty; only Peterson proceeded to trial.

United States District Judge Robert H. Cleland sentenced Peterson to life imprisonment.

“Thanks to a team effort from multiple federal, state, and local agencies, a violent gang leader has been permanently removed from the streets. Violent gang activity and dangerous narcotics trafficking will not be tolerated in our community,” U.S. Attorney Ison said.

“Duane Peterson was found guilty of committing multiple crimes, including murder, as the leader of the IJU street gang, and for those crimes he will spend the rest of his life in prison,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “Violent street gangs like IJU threaten the safety and security of everyone in our community. The FBI, alongside federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies across the country, will continue to target and dismantle gangs that wreak havoc on our neighborhoods.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Detroit Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and many other state and local agencies in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maggie Smith and Eaton Brown.

Updated April 11, 2023

Violent Crime