In an effort to stem an epidemic of shootings and gang violence in Niagara Falls, federal authorities have arrested two reputed gang leaders and a gang member and charged them with weapons and drug counts.
Narcotics Division Lt. Kelly J. Rizzo noted that since the beginning of the year, there have been 50 shootings -- many in broad daylight -- in the city. The crackdown is a joint effort of the Niagara Falls Police Narcotics Division and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The federal arrests, according to Niagara Falls Narcotics Division Capt. Morris J. Shamrock, targeted the leaders of two gangs warring over drug turf: Cecil J. Mulkey, 19, of Jordan Gardens, leader of the Eighth Street Boys, and Arrmon "Mook" Askew, 21, of Packard Court, leader of the Bloods, who have been fighting each other for drug turf.
Askew was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine. Authorities said he distributed crack cocaine in the Niagara Falls area from April to November 2008.
The federal complaint also notes that Askew's name was in a journal seized by the task force during an investigation of the Bloods on March 12, 2009. He was listed under the heading "beef" -- a reference, agents believe, to his roll as an enforcer, or someone who settles disputes with other gangs.
Mulkey was arrested Tuesday on a federal complaint charging him with intentional and unlawful distribution of marijuana and unlawful possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime.
"Mook had been involved in the gun investigation right along, but we needed to get them off the street right now to stop some of this violence," Shamrock said, referring to a joint investigation between city police and the ATF.
Both Ashley and Mulkey face federal gun charges linked to a raid at a Seventh Street house this past summer, Rizzo said.
Meanwhile, James F. Ashley, Jr. 21, of Woodlands Park, Town of Niagara, faces federal gun and drug charges following a raid Wednesday on his trailer home. Rizzo, who said authorities found five pounds of marijuana sitting on a kitchen table, a 9 mm handgun and $5,000 in cash, identified Ashley as an Eighth Street Boy.
Meanwhile, in a nonfederal case, another Eighth Street Boy is accused in the shooting of a 20-year-old man Saturday on Pine Avenue, after a fight in a cell phone store. Howard Welch, 18, of Ferry Avenue, surrendered Monday and was charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and criminal use of a firearm. The victim was not seriously wounded, police said.