DETROIT – An undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is speaking out for the first time about the takedown of a vicious street gang in northwest Detroit known as the Band Crew.
Officials said the Band Crew was so brazen, it committed crimes knowing it was being recorded on video. Band Crew members even flooded social media with photos showing them with deadly weapons and wads of cash.
Now the leaders of the gang are in prison and the agency that took them down is warning others to stop the violence or suffer a similar fate.
Federal officials teamed up with Detroit police to take down the Band Crew, which specialized in taking over gas stations. A few years ago, the Band Crew robbed customers and shot at rival gang members even though they knew surveillance cameras were rolling.
"These guys were violent and had no regard for human life," the undercover ATF agent who worked the case said.
The undercover agent is telling the story of taking down the Band Crew in hopes that others won't go down the same path. Local 4 is protecting his identity.
"We were told this was the most violent gang in northwest Detroit," he said. "(We were told), 'Go do your job and find a way to take them down,' and that is what we did."
Video shows a Band Crew gang member pulling a gun and opening fire just because he didn't like the way a man was looking at him.
"They give them a dirty look, they walk out to their car and he points the gun out the front door of the gas station and starts firing at them," the agent said.
Detroit ATF Special Agent in Charge James Deir said he couldn't believe his eyes.
"They felt emboldened to not only participate in this shooting, but then to remain at a gas station for an extended period of time after the shooting had occurred, where the gas station attendant is calling 911 and they are sitting there contemplating, 'Should we get a drink?'" Deir said.
Community afraid to testify against gang
Federal officials said it was as if the gang members didn't think police would show up, and that's because people in the community were afraid to testify against them.
"They are using guns as tools of intimidation for the folks that live in those communities," Deir said. "One, to rob them and pillage their communities, but also to threaten them and try very hard to intimidate them from cooperating with law enforcement."
On another day, a customer was filling up his gas tank. The Band Crew liked his expensive sunglasses, so they took them by force.
"When that individual walks out with the glasses, they snatch the glasses," the undercover agent said. "He goes to run after them and you can see one of the gang members turn and fire a shot at the victim."
The Band Crew also targeted women.
"He sees the iPhone and says, 'You know what? I want that. It's mine,'" the undercover agent said. "So he tells his gang member, his lieutenant in the gang, to go to it. He proceeds to take off the shirt that has his gang name and his gang nickname on it, turns it inside out and he goes back, steals the phone by force and runs off."
Detroit police asked for help, and the ATF jumped into action.
"Their propensity for violence is so extreme that it warranted the federal government to get involved with this," Deir said.
Band Crew members were rounded up and openly admitted to being in a gang and posting photos with cash and weapons on social media. It was enough to go after the gang's leaders for running a criminal organization.
"We are going to use the federal system, and the resources of the federal government to remove these guys permanently from the community," Deir said.
It worked, as the fear of doing 30 years for racketeering led to guilty pleas in hopes of less prison time. The Band Crew was disbanded. The agents at ATF were gratified that they could play a part in taking down the gang.
"Cases like this are really what makes you get out of bed in the morning," the undercover agent said. "These are real people that are afraid to, you know, go to bed at night or walk the streets of their neighborhood because there's a violent group operating, and if we can do something to make those streets just a little safer and to make them rest a little easier, this is why we do it."
The U.S. Attorney's Office delivered eight convictions against the Band Crew gang. Five were sent to prison for more than five years. One member will do 10 years in prison, and the leader, Corey Mapp, who is only 23 years old, will stay locked up for the next 18 years.
AFT agents said it sent a message that they aren't afraid to go after violent street gangs.