What we know about gang violence in Des Moines
The public often doesn’t learn the full story of what happens with gang rivalries and shootings — unless or until cases go to court.
But several high-profile shootings in Des Moines from recent years show how quickly disputes erupt between rival gang members and how deadly they can be:
Go deeper:Guns, gangs fuel increase in DM violence, say those trying to stop it
The East High drive-by shooting
In March last year, 15-year-old Jose David Lopez-Perez was killed in the East High drive-by shooting, and two girls standing near him were seriously injured. Investigators said the attackers, 10 teens in three vehicles, fired at least 42 shots from six firearms. Prosecutors charged them with murder and attempted murder.
Preliminary evidence showed that Lopez-Perez and his brother had been involved in an ongoing gang-related dispute with one of the teens, 17-year-old Octavio Lopez, no relation, and that both their homes had been targeted previously in drive-by shootings.
More:Starts Right Here shooting victims 'made mistakes' but were not gang members, families say
Des Moines police had placed a hidden camera outside Lopez's 23rd Street home to monitor what they suspected was ongoing gang activity. On the day of the East High shootings, footage showed the 10 suspects departing in the three vehicles about 30 minutes before shots were fired.
Daniel Hernandez was captured on video sitting in the front passenger seat of the lead car ― from which an arm holding a gun could be seen. His lawyer said Hernandez was not one of the shooters and pointed instead to Octavio Lopez, 17, and Henry Valladares Amaya, 18.
He also said his client did not realize a shooting was planned when he joined the group on March 7 but was responding to a separate feud from a fight at a party the preceding Saturday night.
So far, six defendants have pleaded guilty in that shooting.
More:Sixth teen pleads guilty in March 2022 fatal shooting outside East High
The C-Block gang
In March 2019, 15 suspected leaders of the C-Block gang were arrested in raids across Des Moines that resulted in the seizure of 13 guns, 2 pounds of powder cocaine, more than 2 pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and $24,000 in cash, the lead FBI agent said.
Members of the gang have been responsible for killings, shootings, robberies and other crimes in recent years in the Des Moines area, according to federal court records.
The Only The Brothers gang
In April of 2022, a jury found Raekwon Patton, Austin Mallory and Yuri Green Jr. guilty of racketeering and other offenses in connection with the Only The Brothers gang, or OTB.
Their trial centered on three shootings in May and December 2020 in Des Moines, although jurors also heard evidence the gang was involved in drug trafficking, witness intimidation and other crimes.
In that case, the rival gang factions took to Snapchat and other channels to boast of their exploits and insult their foes, including one photo entered as evidence showing OTB members making dismissive gestures at the grave of a slain C-Block member.
The response to such provocations back and forth was frequently violence, prosecutors say.
One member testified that OTB's rules required them to shoot at opponents when they were found, and gang members on both sides were injured or killed on multiple occasions.
More:Violent end marks year that saw more than 20 Des Moines slayings
What's happening with violent crime in Iowa and the US
Iowa continues to have a much lower violent crime rate than the rest of the country, the most recent uniform crime data from the FBI shows. The rate was 398.5 violent crimes per 100,000 residents for the U.S. versus 303.5 per 100,000 for Iowa, 2020 uniform crime statistics from the FBI show.
Like the rest of the country, Iowa saw a spike in violent crime — murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — in 2016, then saw it dip during the pandemic, and rise again afterward.
In 2021, the last year statewide data was available, the entire state recorded 66 homicides. Most of the assailants were under 30.
By far, the most homicides that year happened in people’s homes. No homicides happened inside schools, the statistics show.
Lee Rood's Reader's Watchdog column helps Iowans get answers and accountability from public officials, the justice system, businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 515-284-8549, on Twitter at @leerood or on Facebook at Facebook.com/readerswatchdog.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Here's what we know about gang violence in Des Moines