Families hoping for justice

There are a few hard truths in the neighborhoods near Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards.

People who snitch can get killed. And police rarely solve gang-related murders.

Raymona Williams knows these truths all too well.

Until last year, Williams was the mother of seven children. But on Sept. 29, 2006, she lost her 18-year-old son, Marcus “Marty” Williams, to a drive-by shooting conducted in broad daylight. Her 16-year-old son, Joe, was wounded in the arm in the Doolittle Avenue shooting.

At first, it seemed the case would be simple to solve. There were a handful of witnesses who recognized the vehicle. Joe even knew who the shooters were.

But then the reality of the neighborhood set in.

No one would cooperate with police. Not even Joe.

“I tried to let him know that his brother needed to rest in peace,” Raymona Williams said.

She didn’t press Joe too hard. She knew that helping authorities might put him in harm’s way.

Williams, a customer service representative for a utility company, speaks softly about her dead son. Marty was outgoing, she says. He loved football and basketball.

He wasn’t an angel, but she doubts he was a gang member as police have claimed.

As the months dragged on after Marty’s shooting, she suspected her son’s killers would never be arrested. She felt the police weren’t paying attention to the case. Witnesses weren’t coming forward to identify the suspects.

As for Joe, he still wasn’t helping police.

“I was like, it’s over. Let it go,” she said.

Then about six months ago, Williams got a knock on her door. It was a young black man, she recalls. He introduced himself as Andre Carter, a detective with the Metropolitan Police Department.

He said he was going to help bring her son’s killers to justice.


Carter had worked for 15 years in the neighborhood in which Marty was killed. He’d also worked with the police gang unit.

Now he was part of a four-person team dedicated to solving gang-related killings in a mostly poor area known as West Las Vegas. Members of the Homicide Task Force are familiar with the area and have experience investigating gang crimes, homicides or other violent crimes.

Working with Carter are officer Richard Hall and Detective David Culver. Hall, a seven-year veteran with Las Vegas police, had investigated gang crimes for the Bolden Area Command, which serves West Las Vegas. Culver had worked as a detective in the Metropolitan Police Department’s violent crimes unit before moving to the homicide unit in June.

The squad is the brainchild of Las Vegas police Lt. Lew Roberts, the fourth and supervising member of the task force. He has been overseeing homicide investigations for about two years. Before that, he spent eight years investigating gang crimes.

According to Roberts, police were seeing too many gang-related homicides go unsolved in West Las Vegas, an area generally bordered by Carey Avenue on the north, Bonanza Road on the south, Interstate 15 on the east and Rancho Drive on the west.

Unlike regular homicide detectives, who are constantly assigned new cases, the task force members were told they had nine unsolved gang-related slayings to which they would stay dedicated.

That approach allows members of the squad to spend the significant amount of time needed to build relationships of trust with potential witnesses in the community.

“Sometimes people in the community tend to feel that these gang shootings are just another shooting that no one cares about,” Hall said. “The whole thing we’ve been successful at is having the community trust us and believe that we really care.”

The unit, which formed in February, has solved two cases so far.

Gang killings are notoriously difficult to solve. Witnesses, and even victims, rarely cooperate with police out of fear of retribution or being labeled a snitch. The slayings are particularly problematic for police; one gang killing can set off a chain reaction of retaliation.

Ultimately, police hope to convince witnesses that if they testify, they will be safe from retaliation. In rare cases, authorities will put people in a witness protection program and help them relocate out of the neighborhoods where they are targets for gang members who want to quiet them.

But getting people to testify remains a huge roadblock.

“I never had a problem with getting a person to tell me what happened. The problem comes in trying to convince them to become a part of the legal system,” Carter said.

three arrested

Carter quickly won over Raymona Williams.

He seemed genuinely interested in her life and in arresting whoever killed her son, Williams said. Carter invited her and her husband to visit him at the police station. He called again and again, and gave her family frequent updates about the investigation.

Last summer, Williams joined Carter and other police officers in going door to door in the neighborhood, passing out fliers advertising a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Marty.

“He acted like it wasn’t just another gang shooting,” she said.

During that time, Carter also was working on Joe. He went to Williams’ house and to Joe’s school to speak with him. Still, Carter managed to avoid badgering Joe, his mother said. He just talked to him.

Over the course of six months of talking, Carter won the teen’s trust.

Joe eventually agreed to testify in front of a grand jury about the shooting.

On Aug. 14, police arrested Shaundrell Gentry, 20, Antwan “Lil’ Swol” Jones, 16, and Christian “Taliban” Williams, also 16. Authorities charged each with murder with a deadly weapon, attempted murder with a deadly weapon and several other charges connected with Marty’s killing.

The defendants are accused of being members of a rival gang who wanted to kill Marty, Joe and several other teens in retaliation for an earlier shooting.

Randy Pike, assistant special public defender, is representing Jones. His client has yet to enter a plea.

“We’ve got high hopes for a beneficial resolution for our client,” he said.

Attorneys for the other defendants couldn’t be reached.


With two successes, the Homicide Task Force is now focusing on the Berkley Square case, a shooting last year at a Memorial Day weekend block party that left three people dead and at least five wounded.

The victims died from bullets seemingly fired at random into the crowd of hundreds at the family-oriented event.

Police think they know who killed 24-year-old Steven “Goldie” Beck, 41-year-old Tina Robles and 24-year-old Germar Samuel, but the case is stalled.

Before the task force formed, police scoured the neighborhood near D Street and Lake Mead Boulevard looking for people willing to testify against the shooters. Investigators even have a photo of six teens they suspect were involved in the shooting. The grainy image shows them walking through the crowded block party just before the gunfire.

Roberts said the victims have his word that his task force is committed to bringing the Berkley Square killers to justice.

But so far, officers have been unable to get anyone to identify the killers and to testify in court.

“I just wish one person would come forward,” said Shanna Vukasim, Beck’s mother. “All I need is one.”

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-4638.

NSPCA Gets Kittens From LA
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like