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Detective: Suspects were on mission



Published: Sat, July 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The police chief said the 'air of lawlessness' will not be tolerated.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Four East Side men accused of shooting at police and eluding an all-out manhunt now have apprehended stamped in red across their driver's license photos.

The photos, circulated to aid in their capture, were displayed Saturday at police headquarters downtown after the arrests of Jumal Edwards, 21; Duniek Christian, 20; Craig Franklin Jr., 18; and Brandon Jackson, 21.

Edwards, Christian and Franklin were found at 9:40 a.m. at 143 E. Judson Ave. on the South Side. At 10:30 a.m., Jackson was found at 67 N. Truesdale Ave. on the East Side.

Detective Sgt. Patrick Kelly, head of the Street Crimes Unit, said Christian, Edwards and Jackson surrendered and Franklin was found hiding under a pile of clothes in a closet.

Aside from the SCU, Saturday morning's roundup included members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force gang unit, Patrolman Michael Cox and Detective Sgt. Bill Ross.

Accusation

Edwards is accused of using a gun to steal a 1990 white Cadillac from a Mount Zion Church secretary Friday afternoon. When the car, driven by Christian, became involved in a police pursuit, all four occupants opened fire, police said.

Capt. Robert Kane, chief of detectives, wondered why Edwards identified himself to the church secretary. "He tipped his hand. It didn't make sense," Kane said.

Kane also wondered what kind of person doesn't respect what a church represents. Althea Robinson, the secretary, said Edwards, after praying with her, returned with a gun and threatened her and her 6-year-old granddaughter.

Shootout

During the shootout with police, one marked and one unmarked cruiser were shot and the Cadillac rammed another unmarked cruiser. The suspects abandoned the Cadillac on North Pearl Street near Valley Street and ran west into the woods toward Albert Street.

Two intended victims, Ross and Detective Sgt. Mike Lambert, shrugged off the attack. Both said they've been fired at before. Ross, whose windshield was shot out, said it made him "mad, mostly."

The suspects eluded a massive dragnet that lasted roughly six hours and included dozens of police officers from all surrounding communities. The Ohio State Highway Patrol sent a small plane and helicopter.

Growing up on the East Side, the suspects knew the woods and paths, said Lt. Robin Lees, who, with Capt. Mike Vodilko, directed Friday's dragnet. One man likely made it out of the woods through a culvert, Lees said.

Revenge

Lambert said the four men -- armed with three assault rifles and a 9mm handgun -- had likely been "on a mission" Friday afternoon to avenge the killing of Edwards' 18-year-old brother. Deandre Edwards was killed Wednesday night on Grandview Avenue during a rolling gunbattle that began on South Pearl Street.

That exchange of gunfire resulted in the arrest Friday night of Adam R. Christian, 16, and Antoine White, 19, both East Siders, at a house on South Forest Avenue. Duniek Christian and Jackson also face charges related to the drive-by shootings on South Pearl.

Detective Sgt. John Kelty, who is investigating the Deandre Edwards homicide, identified the feuding families as "the Christians and the Apontes." He declined to give a motive.

On Wednesday, William Aponte, 43, of Liberty Road was shot in the head on Grandview, when Deandre Edwards was killed. Aponte told police he was on his way to his son's house on South Pearl with his nephew when gunfire rang out.

Police said the back window of Aponte's 1992 Mustang convertible had been shot out and several AK-47 assault rifle shells were found in the rear seat area.

Lees said the Christians and their associates are considered the more aggressive of the two warring sides. He said detectives have two suspects from the other group.

Ongoing feud

Kelly said he can't guarantee the feuding will stop but the arrests made Friday and Saturday will help quell the violence.

The "air of lawlessness" on the East Side will not be tolerated, Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said Saturday.

The chief said he's added extra patrols on an overtime basis so the other sides of town aren't shortchanged.

Lees gave a thumbnail sketch of the main suspects' criminal history to reporters. He said Jackson has served time for drugs; Edwards has a record that includes weapons and burglary offenses; and Christian faces drug trafficking charges.

Lambert said Franklin is a suspect in the armed robbery of Atway's Market on Lexington Avenue in May. One of the robbers, a 15-year-old boy, was shot and killed by the store owner.

If convicted of felonious assault on a police officer with a firearm specification, Edwards, Christian, Jackson and Franklin face up to 13 years in prison, Bush said. Except for Adam Christian, a juvenile, all the others charged in the events of Wednesday and Friday night will be arraigned Tuesday in municipal court.

Aside from Lambert and Ross, reports show these officers were fired upon: Patrolmen Ramon Cox, Chad Zubal, Greg Mullenex, Brian Voitus and Dave Wilson.

meade@vindy.com




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