GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police and Kent County prosecutors on Tuesday morning announced a slew of criminal charges against more than a dozen people linked to last summer’s spike in gun violence.
Fourteen people were charged with more than 30 separate felonies including perjury, weapons charges, gang charges, assault and attempted murder.
The most serious was a charge of open murder against Raymond Barrios. He’s being charged in the July 6 shooting death of Saul Espinoza, 20, in the area of 6th Street NW and Front Avenue, across the Grand River from Sixth Street Park.
Grand Rapids police are still looking for Barrios; anyone who knows where he may be is asked to call them at 616.456.3400 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
Daniel Torrez was charged with attempted murder in connection to an Aug. 28 shooting near Union High School on the city’s West Side in which two people sustained minor injuries.
Armondo Torrez and Ryan Martinez were charged with attempted murder in a Sept. 30 shooting on Jennette Avenue NW near 9th Street. In that case, a teen girl was shot in the face.
The full list of charges:
- Juan Alvarado-Gomez: Perjury.
- Shaun Bell Jr.: Perjury and carrying a concealed weapon.
- Shaun Bell Sr.: Being a felon in possession of a firearm.
- Abraham Delapaz-Gutierrez: Perjury.
- Devon Fouse: Perjury.
- Ryan Martinez: Assault with intent to commit murder, felony gang membership, felony firearm, armed robbery and CCW.
- Yareni Martinez: Perjury.
- Jesus Pena, 24: Discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, assault with intent to commit great bodily harm and accessory after the fact.
- Maricarmen Terraza-Torrez: Perjury.
- Armondo Torrez: Assault with intent to commit murder, felony gang membership, felony firearm, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, assault with intent to commit great bodily harm, armed robbery and CCW.
- Daniel Torrez: Perjury, three counts of assault with intent to commit murder, felony gang membership and felony firearm.
- Guillermo Vazquez-Villa: Perjury and CCW.
- Tyronn Young, 17: Perjury and CCW.
- Raymond Barrios: Open murder.
“They’re pretty much … all somehow tied into feuding between gangs. Different gangs, they’re not all the same, it’s all different, different combinations,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said. “TMG, Latin Kings, Mexican mob… what we called the Playboys. It’s all over the board.”
He described most of the motives for the rash of summer shootings as “stupid kid things.”
“Fights over girls, fights over people said something. I can’t think if there’s any good reason to resort to violence, but in terms of resorting to violence, there’s nothing extraordinary,” he said. “Just stupid things that escalate.”
The investigation also netted 10 guns that the Michigan State Police Crime Lab linked to 15 shootings. Becker said some of the guns were used in more than one shooting and some of the shootings happened at the same place.
Police said one problem they continue to have when investigating violent crime is finding witnesses willing to talk to them.
“There’s a lack of trust that we continue to work on,” Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Payne said. “We’re going to continue with our community engagement, our outreach programs to try and build up that trust. But I really believe a big part of it is the culture that exists of not talking to law enforcement. We have to take these steps to compel that information to solve these cases.”
The prosecutor explained the way authorities decided to fight back against the code of silence was to turn to a one-person grand jury. It’s an unusual move — Becker said the last time Kent County did it was after a spike in violence in 2004 — and one that takes months.
Becker said perhaps 100 people — victims, witnesses and persons of interest — were brought in to testify before a judge, who then determined what charges were appropriate and against whom.
“This is a labor-intensive process. It’s labor-intensive for our office, it’s labor-intensive for the police department, to serve these subpoenas, to write the petition, it takes up a lot of court time. These are not something that are over in 10, 15 minutes. It can be an hour, two-hour, even longer in terms of having these people interviewed,” Becker said.
Because no one was cooperating, even some victims in the cases ended up being charged.
Becker said he planned to petition for an additional six months of the grand jury to keep chipping away at other unsolved cases.
Nearly all of the charges resulted from the grand jury, though the charge against Barrios came out of an investigative subpoena.
Becker and Payne called on the community to fight back against an uptick in violence this summer.
“It’s not acceptable, it will not be tolerated, and hopefully we don’t have to go down this road again,” Payne said.
**Correction: Previous versions of this article misspelled Barrios’ last name as Barios. We regret the error, which has been fixed.