Pittsburgh police charge Hilltop gang members in connection with 2014 trash collector killing | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Pittsburgh police charge Hilltop gang members in connection with 2014 trash collector killing

Megan Guza
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide01-050319
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Major Crimes Cmdr. Vic Joseph details the years-long investigation that ended with nine men indicted for their roles in three days of gang violence in 2014 that left a sanitation worker dead in a case of mistaken identity. Police, along with the District Attorney and federal investigators, announced the arrests on Thursday, May 2, 2019.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide01-050319
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Major Crimes Cmdr. Vic Joseph details the years-long investigation that ended with nine men indicted for their roles in three days of gang violence in 2014 that left a sanitation worker dead in a case of mistaken identity. Police, along with the District Attorney and federal investigators, announced the arrests on Thursday, May 2, 2019.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide02-050319
Carolyn Hodges, of Homewood, holds a photo of her son, Omar Hodges, the Pittsburgh environmental services worker who was shot and killed on October 13, 2014, at her home in Homewood, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide01-050319
City of Pittburgh Environmental Services workers, WIlliam Lesesne Jr. of Hazelwood (left) and Lamont Jones of the North Side check over a sanitation truck that was driven in the the funeral procession of Omar Hodges, at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, in Wilkinsburg, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Hodges is the city of Pittsburgh environmental services worker who was killed last week.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide01-050319
City of Pittburgh Environmental Services workers, WIlliam Lesesne Jr. of Hazelwood (left) and Lamont Jones of the North Side check over a sanitation truck that was driven in the the funeral procession of Omar Hodges, at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, in Wilkinsburg, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Hodges is the city of Pittsburgh environmental services worker who was killed last week.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide01-050319
City of Pittburgh Environmental Services workers, WIlliam Lesesne Jr. of Hazelwood (left) and Lamont Jones of the North Side check over a sanitation truck that was driven in the the funeral procession of Omar Hodges, at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, in Wilkinsburg, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Hodges is the city of Pittsburgh environmental services worker who was killed last week.
1102838_web1_ptr-zhoovedarccide001-050319
Pittsburgh police
Pittsburgh police on Thursday, May 2, 2019, announced the arrest of nine people resulting from a four-year investigation into rival gangs that cut a bloody path through Pittsburgh’s Hilltop neighborhoods in 2014. Four people are charged with homicide in connection to the killing of Omar Hodges, a Pittsburgh trash collector, who was not part of any gang. Top row, from right: Lance Gardenhire, 43, of Beltzhoover is charged with homicide, aggravated assault and solicitation. Christopher Bradley-Bey, 25, of Beltzhoover is charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person. Gemere Bey, 29, of Beltzhoover is charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person. Middle row, from right:Shakeem Davis, 28, of McKees Rocks is charged with attempted homicide, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. Sheraun Davis, 35, of McKees Rocks is charged with attempted homicide, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. Holman Brown, 27, of Beltzhoover is charged with homicide, criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats and reckless endangerment of another person. Bottom row, from right: Christopher Brown, 26, of Beltzhoover is charged with homicide, aggravated assault, and criminal conspiracy. Cody Duncan, 27, of Beltzhoover is charged with aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. Corey Cheatom, 27, of Beltzhoover is charged with homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and other charges.

A four-year investigation into rival gangs that cut a bloody path through Pittsburgh’s Hilltop neighborhoods in 2014 culminated Thursday with police announcing the arrests of nine people, including four in connection with the mistaken-identity killing of a Pittsburgh trash collector.

Four members of the “Zhoove” gang – named for the Beltzhoover neighborhood – face homicide charges in the shooting death of 29-year-old Omar Hodges.

“Omar Hodges was a family man trying to make a living – a hardworking civil servant,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. “He was not a gang member. He was killed by gang members in a senseless act of violence.”

Police filed the charges in January, and arrest warrants were unsealed this week for Lance ‘LG’ Gardenhire, 43, the alleged leader of Zhoove; Holman Brown, 27; Chris Brown, 26; and Corey Cheatom, 31.

Hodges, a Pittsburgh trash collector, was waiting for his shift to start in his Cadillac just before 7 a.m. Oct. 13, 2014, on Birmingham Avenue. He had no affiliation with any gang, but his car was similar to that driven by Angelo ‘AK’ Massie – the head of the Darccide gang and a target of the Zhoove gang during a street war that erupted between the two over the course of a few days that month. The Darccide gang was born out of the razed St. Clair Village housing projects.

More than a dozen shots from at least three guns were found at the scene. Hundreds attended the funeral for the city worker, and Mayor Bill Peduto called for an end to street violence and pledged to stand with Hodges’ family.

Five other members of Zhoove were charged for the string of violent crime: Gemere Bey, 29; Christopher Bradley-Bey, 25; Sheraun Davis, 35; Shakeem Davis, 28; and Cody Duncan, 27.

The arrests stem from multiple grand jury indictments and take down a longstanding drug trafficking operations as well as the leaders of Zhoove.

Major Crimes Cmdr. Vic Joseph said detectives had little information about Hodges’ murder at the time, including why he might have been killed. Detectives newly assigned to the case in 2016 – Joseph Fabus, Garrett Spory and Edward Fallert – recalled a joint investigation between Pittsburgh police narcotics detectives and the Drug Enforcement Agency into major drug trafficking in the same time and area as the shootings.

“(The detectives) teamed with narcotics Detective Eric Harpster and reviewed all the information and evidence from the drug case and began to find evidence linking the 2014 shootings together,” Joseph said. “Technology and teamwork played the biggest roles in this investigation.”

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said prosecutors can only prove violent crime charges against the members of Zhoove at this point, not Darccide. The gang’s leader, Massie, is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking.

The three days of violence began Oct. 11, 2014, when someone opened fire on Massie, Normal ‘Dirt’ Blackwell and Ronald ‘Dante’ Clayton at Cordell Place – a housing project controlled by the Darccide gang, according to the criminal complaints

No one was killed in the gunfire, but shooting at Massie “demanded retaliation by the members of Darccide,” detectives wrote in the complaint. As a result, Tamiel ‘Chicago’ Watson was shot and killed that same day. Watson drove the same type of car that Zhoove leader Gardenhire drove. Zhoove members took the shooting as an attempt at taking out Gardenhire.

A witness told police that each gang’s leader offered rewards for shooting rival gang members, according to the complaint. Gardenhire offered up to $10,000 for the death of a Darccide member. Simply wounding them paid $5,000. Taking out Massie, the leader of Darccide, could pay up to $25,000, detectives wrote.

Members of the Zhoove gang decided to try to kill Massie, according to detectives working the case.

Police said that surveillance footage showed Cheatom and Chris and Holman Brown leave their home on Industry Street the morning Hodges was shot and get into a silver Nissan Altima parked across the street.

As the three left Industry Street, different surveillance video three miles away captured Hodges turning from Brownsville Road onto Birmingham Avenue, according to police. His Cadillac was a similar make and model to that of the leader of Darccide, Massie, who also often stayed in a home in that area.

Hodges pulled to the side of Birmingham Avenue – an area where sanitation workers often park their personal vehicles to begin their garbage routes.

As Hodges waited for a garbage truck to pick him up, a silver Nissan Altima pulled alongside his Cadillac and opened fire, police wrote. A muzzle flash was visible in the surveillance footage, detectives said. The footage showed the Altima speeding away as Hodges got out of his car and fell to the street about 6:56 a.m..

Police said a witness told investigators that in a conversation with Cheatom in the days after the killing, Cheatom admitted “they hit the wrong guy.”

Fabus, one of the homicide detectives on the case, said it was a good feeling to get to call Hodges’ mother just before Christmas last year to tell her the indictments were coming.

“They were very patient with us,” he said of the family. “They were understanding that we had a lot going on, a giant case that spider-webbed into different things, and they knew we were making progress.”

Spory, another detective, said cases like this come together bit by bit.

“It’s not something that might happen eight hours a day, but piece by piece we get information, and as we get information, we just follow those leads,” he said. “That’s the good thing about prosecuting criminal homicide – there’s no statute of limitations. We get calls every day for old homicides, and when we get a lead, we follow it. This one took us to indicting nine people.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.