Special operation targets 1,000 gang members in KCK

Posted at 12:40 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 18:38:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Spring brings storms, warmer temperatures, and conditions perfect for crime. 

Recently, the U.S. Marshals Service took 41 Action News reporter Sarah Plake on a ride-along to experience one night of a two-month special operation. 


Moments after U.S. Marshals gathered for a briefing to start the night, Chris Johnson’s dispatch radio cracked.

“That vehicle's leaving, heading north on tenth,” the radio cracked.

Johnson, a supervisory deputy, and a caravan of unmarked law enforcement vehicles immediately left for the area of 10th & Central in Kansas City, Kansas.

"We're in the area and if you're out committing crime tonight, chances are you're probably going to get caught," Kansas City, Kansas Police Captain Scott Owen said as cameras rolled.

Those who are inexperienced might not have noticed how many unmarked and undercover law enforcement cars were on the road. 

"They're going to be looking for stolen autos. They're going to be looking for tricks of the trade, drug trafficking, shots fired calls, things like that to let us know where the crime is occurring," Johnson said of the coordinated effort.

The effort was called Operation Triple Beam, a two-month-long action by the Marshals Service, KCKPD, and many other agencies. 

The targets: Gang members

Around 1,000 gang members live in KCK alone. 

"There's MS13, Dime Block, Norteños, Southdale Bloods; the list is extensive," Johnson said. 

He said the gangs in KCK aren't highly sophisticated like on TV shows and movies. 

As the night continued, officers got wind of activity in a known crime hotspot: State Avenue to Cheyenne between 5th and 29th streets.

"In those areas, there are a multitude of gangs that we feel are responsible for violent crime," Johnson said. 

It was a slow night, but the task force finally got what they were looking for at 18th & Pacific. 

"Something as simple as not using a blinker could turn into arresting several gang members in a car that has guns and drugs," Johnson said. 

The task force spotted a car with expired tags and pulled it over. The driver didn't have a license. 

The officers checked the trunk and found the jackpot: methamphetamine in a clear plastic bag, two large bags of marijuana, drug pipes, two guns, ammo, a scale, and lots of smaller plastic bags.



Officer Chad Shore with KCKPD said there was about a pound of meth, which is larger than what they usually find on car stops. 

The strip mall at 18th & Pacific has multiple businesses and a large parking lot. The officers refer to it as a "drive-through drug store" because of how many drug deals happen there. 

The man behind the wheel was identified as Emilio Erape. When officers ran his information, nothing came back - Erape was in the country illegally. He's now facing criminal weapons charges and intent to distribute charges. 

The items that were in his trunk told officers he was no run-of-the-mill street dealer. 

A narcotics officer showed us the bag of meth. It looked like shards of glass.

The perspiration inside the bag told the officer the product was just made. 

"Doesn't look like it's been cut at all. This is all very good, high-quality methamphetamines," the officer said. 

It's not a normal user amount. 

"We can get street prices of methamphetamines, at roughly 2.2 pounds for about $9,000. That's a very good price. I can remember six, seven years ago it was $35,000 a pound," the narcotics officer said. 

Erape has an ICE detainer but was eventually charged in Wyandotte County before he is to be turned over to ICE custody. 

Drugs are a major part of gang operations

Meth, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin are the most common street drugs in KCK. 

"Meth has been big for a long time. We're starting to see more and more heroin," said Johnson. 

Another key goal of Operation Triple Beam was to target criminals with warrants. 

One target was a member of the Southdale Blood gang. He's wanted for shooting into an occupied moving car, which was all caught on camera. 

They spotted the suspect's car near 10th & Central. Eventually, the man picked up that he's being followed and started to speed, running red lights and screeching around corners. 

The suspect sped into Missouri. Eventually, the officers stopped following but were sure that wouldn't be the last time they'd spot him. 

"That vehicle will be back within an hour or two. And they will do this all again," Johnson said.

He said the gangs usually stick to KCK, sometimes going into Kansas City, Missouri to do drug deals. 

Johnson said he's noticed something over his 15 years on the job - crime trends are changing. 

"Now we're seeing shootings over nothing. Just like online comments people make. Shooting anybody. It's what I refer to as the younger generation of criminals who have no regard for their own life or human life for that matter," said Johnson. 

Later that night, police had to shut down part of Interstate 70 after a man running from police near 10th & Montana chucked his gun off the side of the overpass onto the highway. 

The officers retrieved the gun to check if it's registered. 

Hundreds arrested

On Thursday, May 3, KCK Police and the U.S. Marshals said the operation resulted in the arrests of 200 people, took 63 guns off the street and confiscated more than 40 pounds of drugs.

The U.S. Marshals worked with the Kansas Department of Corrections with the influx of arrests during the operation. 

"Jails are able to account for that with proper staffing, proper facilities to hold people," U.S. Marshal Ron Miller said to 41 Action News. 

For those who got away, Miller has a message: 

"If you don't turn yourself in, we're going to come find you."