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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 17, 2020

Two Fruit Belt Gang Members Arrested on Gun Charge

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Antwaine Parker, 27, and Michael Woods, 31, both of Buffalo, NY, were arrested and each charged by criminal complaint with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremiah E. Lenihan, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, since August 2019, the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force has been investigating the Fruit Belt Gang, whose members are allegedly actively engaged in the distribution of narcotics, firearms offenses, and gang activity. On July 1, 2020, Central Park Gang (CPG) member Shariff Jackson was murdered in Buffalo, and investigators believe that members of the Fruit Belt Gang were involved with Jackson's murder.

On July 4, 2020, defendants Parker and Woods were shot in Buffalo. Woods drove himself to the hospital. Officers on scene of the shooting received information that one of the victims may have thrown a gun. A 9mm handgun was recovered on the roof of a nearby building. Woods told investigators that he was driving in the area with an unnamed person when he was shot; he would not provide any additional information. Investigators believe the shooting could be the result of rival gang activity between CPG and the Fruit Belt.

On July 9, 2020, a photo showing Woods with what appears to be a firearm hanging out of his right-side pocket, was posted to a social media account believed to belong to Woods. Also in July 2020, a photo was posted to a social media account believed to be used by defendant Parker. That photo showed Parker with what appears to be two firearms in his left hand, and a large quantity of plastic wrapped green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.

On July 14, 2020, investigators, fearing potential violence in connection with it, conducted surveillance at the funeral of Shariff Jackson. At the same time, they also conducted surveillance of defendant Parker, who was in the vicinity of 28 Burnie Lane in the McCarley Gardens Apartments. During the surveillance, Woods was observed driving to the area were Parker was. After talking with Parker, Woods left the area. A short time later, a Buffalo Police Officer initiated a traffic stop of Woods’ vehicle. Woods told the officer that he two guns in the vehicle, and gave consent to search the vehicle. Officers recovered two loaded handguns. Woods was taken into custody and the handguns were seized.

Subsequently, defendant Parker left the McCarley Gardens Apartments, and the Buffalo Police conducted a traffic stop. Parker, who was driving with a suspended license, and a passenger were searched with no contraband discovered. The vehicle, which had invalid license plates, was impounded, and Parker was ticketed for various vehicle and traffic violations.  Investigators then searched 28 Burnie Lane, and recovered two firearms in the basement. A witness told investigators that Parker and Woods constantly entered the witness’ apartment without knowledge or permission. Investigators believe the two firearms seized are the same weapons depicted in the social media photo showing Parker with two firearms.

In April 2014, Parker was convicted in state court of Criminal Possession of a Weapon and sentenced to serve 42 months in prison. In March 2012, Woods was convicted in state court of Attempted Criminal Possession of Controlled Substances and sentenced to serve five years probation. In addition, Woods was sentenced in July 2015 to serve 84 months in prison after being convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of a firearm. As a result, both defendants are legally prohibited from possessing a firearm.

“In view of the recent increase in violence and shootings in our community, this prosecution highlights a number of things of which the public needs to be aware,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “There is a cycle of criminality and violence which connects many of the shootings we are seeing in our City. These defendants both have prior weapons convictions, both were themselves shooting victims, and both chose to arm themselves despite being prohibited from legally doing so. Left to their own devices, this is, sadly, the type of ‘justice’ to which those involved in these sorts of activities—many of whom are members of street gangs—aspire. The result is anything but ‘just,’ as it leads inexorably to an ever-escalating and expanding sphere of violence and lawlessness. Yet, the tremendous investigation giving rise to this criminal complaint also demonstrates how professional and proactive law enforcement can effectively disrupt that cycle of violence, save lives, restore law and order, and achieve some measure of ‘justice,’ which is cognizable to the community as a whole. Hats off to the BPD, the FBI, and the ECAC for their outstanding work in this investigation.”

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia, and the Erie Crime Analysis Center, under the direction of Director Jamie Giammaresi.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Updated July 17, 2020