GREENSBORO — Six Richmond County residents were indicted last week on federal drug, weapon and robbery charges and had their first court appearances Monday.
According to Matthew G.T. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, the charges result from “a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement indented to reduce violent and gun-related crime” in Richmond County.
• Quandon Ha’son Wilson, 26, and Devion Marquis Ward, 22, both of Rockingham, were charged in connection to the Jan. 8 robbery of Duncan’s Food Store in Cordova.
Investigators with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said at the time that the two displayed a handgun at the store and took money from the register before leaving the scene. An officer with the Rockingham Police Department initially pulled over a witness, who gave a description of the getaway vehicle and the accused men were arrested at a home on Seago Street.
Both Wilson and Ward are charged with one count each of: obstructing, delaying and affecting commerce and the movement of any article and commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion; and using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Ward was previously charged in two Hamlet shootings, in 2016 and 2017, but never convicted.
• Sajuan Deangelo Leslie, 29, and Quiteraus Dequan Gardner, 22, of Hamlet, were each charged with one count of felon in possession of a firearm.
Gardner was accused last August of breaking into a home and assaulting a pregnant woman. Hamlet detectives say he is a validated gang member associated with the Crips.
Sajuan Leslie was convicted of inciting to riot in 2016; Gardner was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon in 2015.
• Trevon Ibe-Deonte Leslie, 23, was charged with one count each of: felon in possession of a firearm; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; and using, carrying, or possessing a firearm during in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
Trevon Leslie was convicted of felony larceny in 2012.
Both Trevon and Sajuan Leslie were accused in a March 2016 shooting spree in the Little Philadelphia community.
• Hikeem Idrise-Lamar Byrd, 24, of Rockingham, was charged in a four-count indictment with: one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base; two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.
Byrd was arrested by the sheriff’s office in April after investigators say he sold 58.3 grams of cocaine to a confidential informant on two occasions between Jan. 31 and April 19.
He was also wanted in connection with an armed robbery last December at the time of his arrest.
Byrd was released from prison in August of 2016 and has previous felony convictions of discharging a weapon into an occupied property and larceny.
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors noted last summer’s national media attention to the cancellation of fireworks in Hamlet due to “heightened safety concerns” following the murder of Tierell Martin.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought up the issue during a gang conference last August.
“I certainly respect the decision of the city leaders, but is infuriating and wrong to me that they had to make it,” he said. “This is America. We will not be held hostage in our home by gangsters.”
Since then, prosecutors say 25 defendants from Richmond County, including the aforementioned six, have been indicted on federal charges.
Within the past year, 19 defendants have been charged with federal drug and firearm offenses, and six for producing methamphetamine.
“Federal prosecutors and agents have worked diligently with our law enforcement partners in Richmond County to ensure that fear of criminal activity does not control citizens’ enjoyment of their fundamental freedoms on Independence Day or any other day,” Martin said in a statement, ” and we plan to maintain our focus on Richmond County long after the fireworks end.”
Martin thanked Sheriff James Clemmons, police Chiefs Billy Kelly and Scott Waters, and the other state and federal agents “for their coordination and continuing hard work.”
Waters, acknowledging the partnership, told the Daily Journal on Tuesday that the Hamlet Police Department is “constantly working tirelessly to keep our city safe and maximize the consequences to habitual offenders of any crime.”
“Hamlet faces similar problems to all other areas in the region and we are regularly reviewing and researching different ways to promote crime prevention,” he added. “Community policing, increased surveillance of all areas of the city and aggressive patrol tactics are just a few of the measures that are currently in place that have strengthened our police department and enhanced the quality of life to our residents.”
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Gavin Stone contributed to this story. Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]