Latest homicide charges underline fight against gangs, Middletown chief says

Arrests and charges filed against three males this week related to a December 2018 shooting death in Middletown are the latest reminder that the city continues to concentrate on gang activity, the city’s police chief said.

The three accused in the shooting death of Benny Barefield are members of a gang called the Road Runners, which is tied on at least one unsolved and one solved homicide in the past year in the city, police said.

READ MORE: ‘I just want justice’: Middletown victim’s family reacts after 3 charged in December shooting death

Some, including a woman who attended the arraignment of two men in Barefield’s case this week, say Middletown doesn’t have gangs, but “cliques.” Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw disagrees.

“Under state law they are gangs. They fit the very definition of gangs. People call them cliques because they know them,” Muterspaw said. “People will say, ‘They just always hang out together.’ But, if you have got a group hanging out together committing crimes, they are doing the fall under the gang specification we are charging them.

“Whether you have known them since they were 10 doesn’t change the fact that under the law they are gangs.”

On Wednesday, Muterspaw and detectives said the back-and-forth gang violence is connected to the killing of Kaprice Fuller, who was shot to death in the 600 block of 16th Avenue on July 14, 2018.

MORE POPULAR STORIES: Hundreds of Butler County water customers angry about higher December bills

Days after Fuller’s shooting, which remains unsolved, Muterspaw turned to social media to write that nearly every homicide has been committed by people in “the game.”

Gonnii White, now 17, is being tried as an adult for allegedly shooting another teen to death last year in gang-related violence. The grand jury indictment charges White with murder with the specifications that he used a firearm and was participating in a gang at the time of the shooting death of Joesph Davis, 17, near the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Garfield Street during the late-night hours of May 29, 2018.

Middletown Police Detective Kristi Hughes, who was at the fatal shooting scene, testified during a previous hearing that she is trained in the investigation of gangs. She said she was able to determine White is a regional member of a Crips gang called the Road Runners.

White’s Facebook page and his cellphone contained images of him making gang signs and wearing blue (the Crips color) as well as Crips quotes and the Crips prayer, Hughes said.

MORE POPULAR STORIES: Hamilton teen accused of bringing loaded gun to school to stay incarcerated

Davis was a member of a rival gang, the Bloods, according to the detective.

Muterspaw said Middletown has a gang issue, which stretches across the region.

“What is sad is now you have got not just Benny’s life is gone, but you have got these 17- and 20-year-olds today, they have families that some of them are really good people and people who care about them. That is three of families who are destroyed and for what? For nothing,” Muterpaw said. “This lifestyle, they think it is glamorous because of what they have seen on TV. It’s not glamourous, there’s nothing glamorous about going to prison. There is no honor in going to prison.”

He said he knew some of the young men involved in gang activity as children.

“They were kids playing ball at Smith Park and stuff like that typical Middletown kids, but they go that route. It just sucks to see,” he said.

The Road Runners are among other gangs that Middletown officers have faced, which is why the department is training some to be gang specialists, Muterspaw said.

“We have had others. The Cincinnati White Boys and the Baltimore Street Gang, we squashed them,” he said.

In 2016, three men, members of the Cincinnati White Boys gang, all went to prison for crimes that resulted in the slaying of two people.

In 2011, seven men were sent to prison, one for murder, who were members of the Baltimore Street Gang involved in drug crimes and robbery.

“We are just going to keep squashing them, we did it with the other gangs and we are going to do it with this one too.” Muterspaw said. “We just have to keep stepping on them.”

About the Author