When it came to “putting in the work,” the phrase gang members use to describe murders, shootings and drug dealings, Kyle Eagan’s résumé may be unrivaled.
Eleven shootings. One murder. Years of continuous drug dealing.
No one among the 10th Street Gang members and its associates who have pleaded guilty – there are 40 so far – comes close to Eagan’s acknowledged record of violence.
And no one has more to lose.
Over the course of two days this week, Eagan testified against four other alleged 10th Street members and, in doing so, took a federal court jury through his numerous documented acts of violent crime that terrorized Buffalo’s West Side.
He also pointed the finger at some of his former friends in hopes that he might get a break on what could be a lifetime in prison.
“By testifying today, you’re trying to avoid a life sentence?” defense attorney Scott M. Green asked at one point.
“Yes, sir,” Eagan said.
Eagan isn’t the only 10th Street member to take the witness stand, but unlike some of his fellow gang members, his testimony provided an inside look into many of the group’s most violent acts.
The gang, which operated on the city’s Lower West Side, came to prominence in the 1990s and became known for its bloody feud with the neighboring Seventh Street Gang.
One of the consequences of that rivalry was the murder of Omar Fraticello-Lugo, a 16-year-old Seventh Street member, on Busti Avenue in September 2008. Two other rival gang members were wounded that day.
Eagan admitted taking part in the fatal shooting and at least three other attempted murders over the next year or so. They included a drive-by shooting in August 2009 when he shot a rival gang member several times from close range.
“You tried to kill Michael Sanchez that day, didn’t you?” Green asked him.
“Yes, sir,” Eagan replied.
Eagan also testified about the four accused 10th Street members – Jonathan Delgado, Matthew Smith, Ismael Lopez and Domenico Anastasio – on trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
He talked about the murders of two innocent bystanders, Brandon McDonald and Darinell Young, on Pennsylvania Avenue in April 2006. Eagan wasn’t there, but he claims Delgado later admitted his involvement in the killings.
The day before, Delgado’s younger brother had been shot, and Eagan said gang members were anxious to retaliate.
“He said they shot his brother so he did what he had to do,” Eagan said of his conversation with Delgado after the murders.
“What did you understand that statement to mean?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi.
“That he took part in the shooting,” Eagan answered.
Described by investigators as the “worst of the worst,” Eagan pleaded guilty to two felony charges – racketeering conspiracy and murder – in August of 2011. He’s scheduled to be sentenced late next month.
As part of his plea deal, Eagan agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and his testimony this week was the culmination of that cooperation.
Like many of his fellow 10th Street members who have taken the stand, Eagan was often emotionless in describing the shootings he took part in.
When Green, Delgado’s lawyer, questioned him about the fatal shooting in 2008, he asked if Eagan had shot into a crowd of people.
Eagan responded by reminding Green they were rival gang members.
“They are people, aren’t they?” Green asked him.
“Yes,” Eagan said.
“They are human beings aren’t they?” Green asked.
“Yes,” Eagan said.
“And you killed Mr. Lugo?” Green asked.
“Yes, sir,” answered Eagan.
Eagan’s decision to testify against his old friends could prove crucial to making the government’s case against Delgado and the others. At the core of the prosecution is the allegation that 10th Street was a criminal enterprise and that its members acted collectively to maintain and grow the enterprise.
Green, eager to poke holes in Eagan’s credibility as a witness, asked repeatedly about Eagan’s numerous interviews with police and prosecutors. The investigation was led by the FBI and included the state police and Buffalo police.
At one point, Eagan seemed to grow tied of the questioning and told Green, “I told you, I lied plenty of times.”
Prosecutor Tripi countered by reminding the jury, through his questioning of Eagan, that the numerous shootings he took part in were directed at rival gang members. He also asked Eagan if he was still lying or withholding information.
“As you sit in this courtroom, what do you have a greater incentive to do – lie or tell the truth?” he asked.
“Tell the truth,” Eagan said.
Formed in the late 1980s, 10th Street controlled much of the West Side neighborhood bounded by Niagara Street to the west, Richmond Avenue to the east, Auburn Avenue to the north and Carolina Street to the south.
Gang members were known for “tagging” buildings and signs with graffiti to demonstrate their control of the neighborhood. They also were known for wearing plain white T-shirts and tattoos with “MOB” or “10” in the design.
The trial resumes today.