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Press Release

Drug Traffickers Involved in Fatal Eastern Avenue Gunfight Plead Guilty

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Darion Harvey previously sentenced to 26 years for his role in deadly shooting

ROANOKE, Va. – Two more Roanoke men involved in a fatal shooting at an Eastern Avenue drug house in the City of Roanoke pleaded guilty today in federal court for their roles in the shootings and related drug trafficking activity.

Chad Matthew Custer, 23, and Aaron Lee Woods, 28, pled guilty today to one count each of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of 100 kilograms or more of marijuana as well as one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Darion Mantez Harvey, 24, previously pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced in May 2022 to 26 years in federal prison.  Custer and Woods face a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

“The rise in violent crime we have seen in the Western District of Virginia must be met by an all-hands-on-deck approach to law enforcement. Local, state, and federal agencies are working together to bring to justice those individuals who act with brazen disregard for human life,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “In this gun battle, a young man lost his life, and three others will be changed forever.  Violence is never a solution, and those who choose to engage in violence will be held accountable.”

“We are fully prepared to handle to the challenges that surround combating violent gun crime and narcotics distribution within our communities,” said ATF Washington Field Division Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson. “We will continue to utilize intelligence led policing methods as we work alongside our law enforcement partners.  This collaboration will continue to aid in dismantling drug trafficking organizations and disrupting the illegal possession of firearms that often plague our neighborhoods.”

“Gun violence is often a companion to drug trafficking, and this is an unfortunate result of that pairing. Nothing can erase the pain that the family and loved ones of this young man feel after his life was taken, but we hope this plea brings some amount of peace and comfort to them,” said Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman. “This investigation was difficult and lengthy, but we are glad we could work with our partners at the state, local, and federal level to achieve this outcome. Violent crime has no place in Roanoke. The members of the Roanoke Police Department are committed to doing all we can to identify those who are perpetrating violent crime in our community and hold them accountable for their actions.”

According to court documents, in October 2018, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began investigating a drug trafficking organization involving Woods, Custer, and  Harvey.

During the course of the investigation, authorities learned that Woods, Harvey, Custer, and other co-conspirators used Woods’ apartment on Eastern Avenue as the primary site for their large-scale  distribution of marijuana in the Roanoke Valley from late 2017 through approximately August 2019.  Witnesses told police that customers would stream in and out of the apartment at all hours of the day and night buying marijuana from the defendants, who kept their loaded firearms in plain view. 

In the early evening hours of July 10, 2018, a car containing five individuals arrived at the Eastern Avenue apartment where a gun battle broke out with Harvey, Woods, and Custer on one side and the newly-arrived individuals on the other. While four of the individuals fled on foot, a fifth individual was in a vehicle driving away from the scene when a bullet struck him in the back of the head and killed him.  

Investigators recovered multiple firearms used by Woods, Harvey, and Custer during the shootout, including high-powered, military-style rifles with laser sights as well as multiple handguns and ammunition.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the City of Roanoke Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kari K. Munro, Charlene R. Day, and Matthew M. Miller prosecuted the case for the United States.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated September 27, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods