45ºF

19 Detroit men face drug charges; feds reveal ‘climate of fear’ created by gang’s violence, control

7 ‘It’s Just Us’ gang members charged, officials say

A courtroom. (WDIV)
A courtroom. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Feds have charged 19 Detroit men in connection with drug crimes, and in one indictment, they broke down how the “It’s Just Us” gang initiated its members, operated stash houses, moved guns and drugs, and even gained control of restaurants and bars while creating a “climate of fear” on the east side.

19 men charged

On Thursday (Oct. 22), federal officials unsealed an indictment that charged seven members of the It’s Just Us gang, including Duane Peterson, the alleged leader.

Here are the seven men who were charged, along with their known nicknames:

  • Duane Peterson, 35 -- “Juan”
  • Dionne Peterson, 34 -- “Chapo Streeter” and “Streets”
  • Deshawn Peterson, 30 -- “Red”
  • Luther Peterson, 26 -- “Mook”
  • Dayquan Johnson, 23 -- “Day Day”
  • James Davis, 26 -- “Jamo”
  • Melvin Brown, 21 -- “June”

“Our message to violent drug-dealing gang members could not be more clear: Our federal and state law enforcement team knows exactly who you are, and we are coming after you,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “Today, our neighborhoods are safer because these violent gang members are off our streets.”

FBI agents and other law enforcement officers, including Detroit police officers, have worked to bring down the IJU gang since 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Officials charged an addition 12 Detroit men earlier this month in connection with trafficking controlled substances and other charges. They were included in the same announcement from the United States Attorney’s Office, but not specifically linked to any gang.

Here are their names and nicknames:

  • Demarco Johnson, 30 -- “Marco,” “DJ” and “Gar”
  • Maurice Johnson, 45 -- “Reesey” and “Frank”
  • Gary Johnson, 35 -- “Doc”
  • Carlouse Johnson, 48 -- “Los” and “Unc”
  • Lanardo Johnson, 45 -- “Ronnie” and “Side”
  • Deantez Johnson, 35 -- “Omar,” “OJ” and “Squeeze”
  • Janard Thomas, 39 -- “Rudy”
  • Michael Thomas, 43 -- “Meech”
  • Dominique Jackson, 28 -- “Diddy”
  • Ricky Poole, 46 -- “Rick”
  • Martin Battiste, 47 -- “Face”
  • Marquan Moses, 25 -- “Clear”

More than 50 search warrants were executed during the course of the investigation, officials said.

It’s Just Us gang hierarchy

Defendants involved: Duane Peterson, Dionne Peterson, Deshawn Peterson, Luther Peterson, Dayquan Johnson, James Davis and Melvin Brown

Federal officials describe the It’s Just Us gang as a “violent, Detroit-based drug trafficking organization founded by the Peterson family in 2014.”

According to the indictment, IJU is also known as “458," “Young N Turnt,” “YNT,” “25," “Block Kings” and “BK." The numbers included among these nicknames come from the letters that correspond with telephone keypad numbers, officials said. For example, “IJU” -- the initials of “It’s Just Us" -- correspond with the numbers “258” on a telephone keypad. Therefore, 258 is a nickname for the gang, according to authorities.

IJU operated primarily on Detroit’s east side, but also distributed drugs in Flint, Jackson and West Virginia -- specifically Huntington and Parkersburg, officials said.

“Members and associates of the enterprise promoted a climate of fear through intimidation, threats of violence and violence to enhance the enterprise’s prestige, reputation and position in the community,” the indictment says.

On Detroit’s east side, IJU maintained stash houses for drugs and guns while also selling drugs, according to court records.

They also claimed certain bars and restaurants as their own, which meant customers and owners recognized the gang members and allowed them to carry firearms inside and stay there after hours, federal officials said.

Gang members would transport drugs by attaching magnetic boxes to the bumpers or engine areas of cars, court documents claim. They would also ask women to hide drugs on their person, according to the indictment.

Duane Peterson was the leader of the operation, officials said. His lieutenants were Dionne, Deshawn and Luther Peterson, according to court records.

Lower ranking members included Dayquan Johnson, Davis and Brown, officials said.

“Members were expected to obey the rules and orders of IJU’s leadership, particularly Duane Peterson,” the indictment reads.

IJU initiation

Officials said Duane Peterson controlled membership within the gang.

The process to get into the gang involved spending time with IJU members and volunteering to sell drugs and commit acts of violence on their behalf, authorities said.

If someone proved their worth and another IJU member vouched for them, Duane Peterson would eventually allow them into the gang, officials said.

Prospective members were required to have “IJU” or “458” tattooed on their bodies, the indictment says.

Gang members would also declare their affiliation with clothes that said “It’s Just Us” or “IJU,” according to authorities.

To become a member, possession of firearms is required, officials said. Duane Peterson would provide the weapons, according to court records.

Members would also tout the gang’s accomplishments via pictures, videos and messages on social media, federal officials said.

Some of the accomplishments included murder, assault and drug and weapon trafficking, the indictment alleges.

If someone disrespected IJU, violence was the means of retaliation, officials said. Gang members could also maintain or advance their position in the gang through violence, authorities said.

“Members and associates of the enterprise were expected to retaliate with threats of violence and violence when members and associates of the enterprise were insulted, threatened, intimidated or assaulted,” the indictment says.

IJU goals

The federal indictment listed specific goals of the It’s Just Us gang.

First, members wanted to get rich through criminal activity, officials said.

They also wanted to expand and protect the power and reputation of the gang through violence and intimidation, according to authorities.

Federal officials said they worked to promote and enhance the operation through drug distribution and violence.

Gang members shared information about plans and activities and distributed firearms to each other to carry out those plans, according to the indictment.

Possible victims or witnesses were kept in fear of the gang through intimidation, threats and violence, officials said.

The gang helped members and associates obstruct and hinder authorities to avoid prosecution, federal officials said.

Allegation timeline

Sometime in or before 2014 through January 2019, Duane Peterson and Brown were among a group of people associated with an IJU racketeering scheme, according to authorities.

NOTE: All allegations are “on or around” the noted dates.

Jan. 25, 2015: Deshawn Peterson possessed marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine, digital scales and US currency in a Jackson house, the indictment alleges.

April 12, 2015: Dionne Peterson posted a Facebook photo that said, “Tag a cousin you will kill for,” authorities said. The post had a picture of two men and linked to six Facebook accounts, including Luther Peterson and other IJU members, officials said.

Sept. 4, 2015: Deshawn Peterson possessed a handgun in Detroit, court documents say.

Sept. 9, 2015: Luther Peterson sold heroin to an undercover officer in Jackson, officials said.

Nov. 23, 2015: Luther Peterson sold heroin to an undercover officer in Jackson, officials said.

Dec. 12, 2015: Luther Peterson possessed 33 grams of heroin, two digital scales and $2,087 at his Jackson house, according to authorities.

Dec. 12, 2015: Luther Peterson possessed heroin and $396 in Jackson, the indictment claims.

Feb. 15, 2016: Luther Peterson sold heroin to an undercover officer in Jackson, feds said.

March 12, 2016: Davis sold heroin to an undercover officer in Parkersburg, West Virginia, according to the indictment.

March 22, 2016: Davis sold heroin to an undercover officer in Parkersburg, West Virginia, according to the indictment.

April 19, 2016: Luther Peterson sold heroin to an undercover officer in Jackson, authorities said.

May 13, 2016: Another IJU member possessed heroin packaged for sale in Huntington, West Virginia, court records show.

Jan. 12, 2017: A woman in Dayquan Johnson’s car had 18 hydrocodone pills, 17 oxycodone pills and $449 while in Detroit, officials said.

March 6, 2017: Brown possessed marijuana packaged for sale in Jackson, according to authorities.

May 15, 2017: Another IJU member had more than 75 grams of crack cocaine, 260 grams of fentanyl-laced heroin, manufacturing and packaging materials and two firearms with extended magazines at his home in Jackson, the federal indictment says.

June 8, 2017: Duane Peterson possessed a .40-caliber Glock handgun in a car he was driving, authorities said.

June 26, 2017: Duane Peterson searched online for jars, bags, packaging and shipping supplies, scales, pollen presses and magnetic stash boxes, officials said.

July 3, 2017: Dionne Peterson was pictured with a handgun and an extended magazine, the indictment says.

July 6, 2017: An IJU member had a sandwich bag of cocaine in Detroit, officials said. Another member had 365 grams of fentanyl-laced heroin, a sandwich bag of cocaine, two handguns and $6,999 at his home in Detroit, according to court records.

Aug. 3, 2017: Dionne Peterson got a text about law enforcement searching the Huntington, West Virginia, home, officials said.

Aug. 4, 2017: An IJU member had two guns, ammo, heroin and digital scales at a home in Huntington, according to authorities.

Aug. 6, 2017: Dionne Peterson had a stolen handgun, officials said.

Feb. 2, 2018: A picture on Facebook showed Dionne Peterson with a handgun and an extended magazine putting his arm around Luther Peterson, police said. The caption said, We still the on same s*** Chapo the bodyguard," according to court records.

March 5, 2018: Brown and other members had heroin, crack cocaine, three digital scales, ammo and more than $2,000 cash at a Jackson home, authorities said.

March 6, 2018: Dionne Peterson received a text informing him that authorities had searched and recovered drugs and money in Jackson, according to the indictment.

March 20, 2018: Duane Peterson talked to another IJU member about drug sales and how much money that member owed him, authorities said.

April 3, 2018: Luther Peterson posted a picture on his Facebook account showing him and Dionne Peterson, officials said. The caption was, “Don’t compete with the N***** you eat with," court records show.

April 17, 2018: Dionne Peterson got a text from another IJU member that a drug house in West Virginia was being searched and IJU members had been arrested, according to officials.

April 17, 2018: An IJU member and an associate had 129 grams of fentanyl-laced heroin vacuum sealed in a magnetic box affixed to the back bumper of the car, police said.

April 18, 2018: Luther Peterson sold fentanyl-laced heroin to an undercover officer in Jackson, officials said.

May 10, 2018: Dionne Peterson and Deshawn Peterson talked about IJU’s drug trafficking business, according to authorities.

Aug. 8, 2018: Duane Peterson had a stolen .40-caliber handgun with an extended magazine and talked with Dionne Peterson about law enforcement’s monitoring of their distribution in West Virginia, court records allege.

Aug. 22, 2018: A Facebook photo showed Dionne Peterson holding a handgun, officials said. Federal authorities believe he possessed a handgun that day.

Sept. 9, 2018: Dionne Peterson talked with fellow IJU members about the movement of “buckets” and money for narcotics trafficking, the indictment says.

Oct. 25, 2018: Davis and another member talked on Facebook about the prices of handguns they were selling, officials said.

Jan. 22, 2019: Davis and other members possessed 37 grams of gray-colored heroin, $5,891, digital scales and bus tickets in multiple names at a house in Parkersburg, according to authorities.

Jan. 22, 2019: Luther Peterson posted a message on Facebook warning IJU members against “snitching” because they would get “f***** up," court documents claim.

Jan. 24, 2019: Davis told Dayquan Johnson about his arrest for drug trafficking in West Virginia, according to officials.

Jan. 25, 2019: Dayquan Johnson told Davis he would pay for him to be released on bond, according to court records.

May 17, 2017, murder allegations

On May 17, 2017, Duane Peterson got a call from someone offering to pay him and another member $10,000 to kill a person who publicly disparaged the gang and a dead gang member by yelling insults, according to officials.

Duane Peterson, Dayquan Johnson, Luther Peterson, Brown and another IJU member went to B.O.B’z Lounge in Detroit to confront the man and shot at him as he retreated from them, court documents say.

Duane Peterson followed the man until he fell face-first on the ground, and then he and another member fired handguns at the back of the victim’s head while standing over him, officials said.

Duane Peterson and the other unnamed member threw their handguns onto the roof of a nearby building and fled the scene, but police found the weapons, according to the indictment. Officials said the guns matched shell casings found at the scene.

Duane Peterson and the other gang member split the $10,000, police said.

The indictment says Duane Peterson and others committed an act involving first-degree murder in the “willful, deliberate and premeditated killing” of the victim.

They are also accused of second-degree murder in the incident because they acted “in wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of his actions would cause death and great bodily harm,” according to the federal indictment.

March 6, 2018, murder allegations

On March 6, 2018, Duane Peterson choked and repeatedly punched someone inside the Liquor Island convenience store in Detroit, officials said.

The attack was committed in front of Dionne Peterson, Dayquan Johnson, Davis and other IJU members, federal officials said.

Duane Peterson continued to punch the victim in the parking lot while another IJU member approached a Chevrolet Impala with three people inside who were watching the alleged assault, according to authorities.

That IJU member hit one of the Impala occupants in the head with a handgun and said, “This ain’t no m************ show,” court records say. That gang member and Duane Peterson fired shots into the Impala and struck another passenger in the torso, officials said.

Officials accuse Duane Peterson of an act involving murder -- “an assault on (the victims) with the intent to commit the crime of murder,” the indictment says.

IJU charges

Duane Peterson and Brown are charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances,

Dionne Peterson, Deshawn Peterson, Luther Peterson, Dayquan Johnson and Davis are charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

IJU members convicted in the case have to forfeit money or property gained through the operation, officials said.

Drug accusations against other 12 men

Defendants involved: Demarco Johnson, Maurice Johnson, Gary Johnson, Carlouse Johnson, Lanardo Johnson, Deantez Johnson, Janard Thomas, Michael Thomas, Dominique Jackson, Ricky Poole, Martin Battiste and Marquan Moses.

Between April 2015 at the latest through September 2020, the 12 men above possessed and distributed controlled substances, according to an indictment.

The substances included mixtures and substances containing detectable amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine, officials said.

Federal officials said one or more kilogram of the heroin mixture/substance was linked to Maurice Johnson, Gary Johnson, Carlouse Johnson, Deantez Johnson, Janard Thomas, Jackson and Moses.

Authorities linked 400 grams of the fentanyl mixture/substance to Demarco Johnson, Maurice Johnson, Gary Johnson, Carlouse Johnson, Deantez Johnson, Janard Thomas, Jackson and Moses, the indictment says.

Court records claim Poole and Battiste were linked to 40 grams or more of the fentanyl mixture/substance.

Conspiracy details

The 12 defendants are accused of concealing their distribution conspiracy, which included U.S. currency and communication over cellphones, according to court records.

Officials said they would use homes in Detroit to store, conceal and distribute the drugs and proceeds from trafficking.

Members of the group also had guns to protect their operation and intimidate others, authorities said.

They threatened physical violence against others to maintain and protect the conspiracy, the indictment says.

Court records allege they helped each other cover up the crimes to avoid successful law enforcement investigation.

Timeline of allegations

NOTE: All dates are described as “on or about" in the indictment.

April 9, 2018: Demarco Johnson, Deantez Johnson, Janard Thomas and Moses possessed at least one kilogram of a mixture containing heroin and fentanyl, according to authorities.

Dec. 18, 2018: Maurice Johnson and Gary Johnson distributed 40 grams or more of a mixture containing heroin and fentanyl, court records say.

April 16, 2019: Gary Johnson is accused of distributing 40 or more grams of a mixture containing heroin and fentanyl.

Nov. 8, 2019: Janard Thomas and Battiste distributed 40 grams or more of a mixture containing heroin and fentanyl, the indictment claims.

Nov. 12, 2019: Janard Thomas and Poole distributed a mixture containing heroin and fentanyl, officials said.

Nov. 22, 2019: Janard Thomas, Poole and Battiste distributed more than 40 grams of a mixture and substance containing heroin and fentanyl, according to court records.

May 22, 2019: Jackson possessed a Savage Arms Model 321 12-gauge shotgun that was shipped and transported interstate, knowing he had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison, according to authorities.

Dec. 19, 2019: Poole possessed a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber firearm that was shipped and transported interstate, knowing he had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison, court documents allege.

Charges

Demarco Johnson is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Maurice Johnson is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and distribution of controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Gary Johnson is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and distribution of controlled substances -- aiding and abetting, distribution of controlled substances.

Deantez Johnson is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Janard Thomas is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances -- aiding and abetting and three counts of distribution of controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Jackson is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and felon in possession of a firearm.

Poole is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, two counts of distribution of controlled substances -- aiding and abetting and felon in possession of a firearm.

Battiste is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and two counts of distribution of controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Moses is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances -- aiding and abetting.

Carlouse Johnson, Lanardo Johnson and Michael Thomas are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

All 12 defendants have to forfeit any money or property obtained through the conspiracy, if convicted, the indictment says.

Jackson and Poole have to forfeit any firearms, ammo and body armer involved in the conspiracy, if convicted, according to authorities.


About the Author: