An 11- year-old girl was playing in her front yard when the bullets starting flying.
When her mother and sister rounded the corner in a car, they saw the shooter hanging out of a passenger window.
Pascagoula police later stopped a car matching a witness’s description. They found three men with 17 grams of marijuana, pot residue in a plastic bag and two loaded firearms – both stolen out of Long Beach that morning of April 5.
The driver, identified in federal courts hearings as Sirmarrion Davis, is one of five men charged with capital murder in the Feb. 4 armed home invasion, assault and killing of a man at a Super Bowl Party in Moss Point.
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The admitted shooter, Byron Ratliff Jr., was armed with a .40-caliber pistol. Another passenger, Carlos Dukes, was carrying a .38-caliber revolver
Though both Ratliff and Dukes denied any involvement in the gun thefts that morning, their cellphones placed them within a mile of where the weapons had been stolen.
The trio are just a few of the alleged members of the Pascagoula-area street gang Gunz, Bricks, Money – which has over 50 members. The gang is also known for producing rap music videos, Pascagoula Police Det. Chris Meadows said.
The Sun Herald spent weeks listening to digital audio files of federal court hearings and combing through local, state and federal court records as well as conducting interviews with residents and authorities to get an inside look at the GBM gang members who often boast about their activities on social media.
The reporting included visits to the East Pascagoula neighborhood where the shots rang out in April.
Life is fairly quiet along the residential street that sits less than a mile from two schools and and within walking distance of a church and businesses.
A basketball goal sits in the driveway outside the brown brick home where the child was playing when the shots were fired.
Next door, a couple of toddler’s riding toys sit outside.
Authorities are hoping their efforts reduce illegal gang activity, such as the April 5 shooting.
Goula Boys Mafia
Also known as the Goula Boys Mafia in the past, the GBMs are mostly made up of younger adults, some still in their teens, who are engaged in alleged gun-running, drug-trafficking and other violent crime.
In a March 31 stop involving two of the alleged members, cops found marijuana, a pot grinder, two guns and a couple of face masks.
Those who forced their way into a side door in the armed home-invasion and killing in Moss Point also donned similar masks, something authorities believe the gang members wear while committing crimes.
The GBMs identify mostly as a subset of the Bloods street gang, originating out of Los Angeles in 1970s to protect criminal interests and maintain control of the streets, especially against the rival Crips gang.
Local authorities say the GBMs’ primary rival gang are members of the mostly Moss Point-based gang, Money Over Bitches, or MOBs.
Less is known about the MOB’s, authorities say, because they do not use social media like the GBMs to boast about their activities.
However, authorities say, the MOBs identify as a subset of the Crips street gang and similar subsets of that gang, such as the Black Gangster Disciples. Like the GBMs, the MOBs are also believed to be involved in alleged gun- and drug-trafficking.
An attack on gangs
Some of the alleged members of the GBMs are among those who have been arrested in the last year and half on mostly federal charges of being known drugs users in possession of firearms.
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst has touted the ongoing efforts of local, state and federal authorities as an attack on organized criminal activity by alleged gang members.
The work has led to the successful federal prosecutions of various gang members that, Hurst said, gets them off the streets and away from their home base to serve time in out-of-state federal prisons.
Another key advantage to federal prosecutions, authorities say, is that the charges carry stiffer sentences that allow less communication between inmates and the outside world, limiting the ability of these offenders to maintain control over the streets they once led.
It also results in lesser crime in communities, Pascagoula Police Chief Kenny Johnson said, such as what his agency sees, which he described as mostly gang-on-gang crimes.
According to authorities, a lot of the intelligence they have gathered on the GBMs has come to light in investigations, tips from the public and through other intelligence gleaned from their music and their messages on social media.
“With our multi-prong enforcement, we haven’t seen as much criminal activity,” Johnson said. “We haven’t seen anything we feel warrants the need to issue any special warnings to the public.”
However, in the last two years cops doubled their presence at Pascagoula High School when rumors started about a possible gang fight allegedly involving members of the GBMs and a rival gang that never happened.
Maintaining an image
Like other more well-known gangs, the GBMs want to portray themselves as good stewards of the community.
“Just last year, they had this turkey drive,” Det. Meadows said, pointing to a picture of GBM members gathered in a business parking lot in Pascagoula, with one man holding a frozen turkey above his head..
Kneeling on the front row is the gang’s lead rapper turned convicted felon, Corbyn Trymane “Kreole Trey” Cowan, 23.
In the picture, he’s got his fingers pointed to the side of his head as if he’s about to fire a weapon.
“They do try to portray themselves as a local charitable group,” Meadows said, “but that’s not all that’s going on, according to our intelligence.”
Cowan is off the streets now, serving time in state prison for shooting and injuring a teen in Biloxi in another gang-related incident.
But his music is still making waves in Mississippi Coast communities thanks to friends and fellow gang members who are promoting and sharing the music on social media sites.
‘Same guns as the army’
In the videos, Kreole Trey and other gang members show off an an assortment of weapons — from semi-automatic handguns to rifles to military-style machine guns. They tell authorities the guns are props.
The videos are shot mostly at low-income housing areas in Pascagoula and Moss Point and feature Kreole Trey rapping to such lyrics as, “We got the same guns as the Army.”
In another music video, gang members captured footage of Pascagoula police officers breaking up a group gathering on the streets one day. In the clip, someone in the gang says two of their people have been carted off to jail.
In other videos, Kreole Trey shares even more about the gang through such songs as one called, “Life Support.”
“’The streets are back on life support. For the gang, I’m going hard.
“’Momma said she’s scared for me. She said she loves more than the street.
“’In the hood, I’m headhuntin’. I say the word and you sleep.”
In other verses, the lyrics lay out what loyalty means.
“’Bodies dropping. We just trying to make it through the street. I won’t tell what I done did or what I done seen. Every time a (n-word) drop, they put us on the scene.’”
Despite the messages the gang seems to be sending in their music, authorities say efforts are ongoing to reduce gang-related crime and violence.
In fact, even before the incident in April, authorities had already picked up three other alleged GBM members when they showed up at the Pascagoula Police Department thinking they were there to retrieve some guns cops had taken from them during an earlier traffic stop.
Among those who showed up were alleged GBM members and twins Kevin Mitchell and Tevin Mitchell, both 20-year-old Pascagoula residents. Police later captured audio recordings from the jail of a conversation between Kevin Mitchell and a girlfriend.
In it, he blames himself for his arrest.
He also said he never thought police officers would take him into custody for carrying firearms.
In the recording, Kevin Mitchell accuses cops of usually taking his weed but letting him keep his guns.
In other recordings and documents reviewed by the Sun Herald, gang members admit buying firearms, some of which police believe they actually stole, and later driving to other rural areas, such as in Jackson County’s Escatawpa community, to sell the guns to others for profit.
Whatever the case, authorities say they are determined to continue the crackdown on criminals who are packing guns and drugs and threatening the safety of others even if the alleged victims are suspected rival gang members.
“We will continue to be vigilant,” Meadows said.
A look at the offenders
- Tevin Ladarius Mitchell, 20, of Pascagoula, pleaded guilty a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a known user of a controlled substance on July 2. His sentencing is set for Nov. 16.
- Kevin Lamarcus Mitchell, 20, of Pasagoula, pleaded guilty in July to a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a known user of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, fined $5,000 and ordered to serve three years under post-release supervision.
- Joseph Jeremiah Smith, of Gautier, was indicted on a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a user of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to the charge in September. His sentencing is set Dec. 12.
- Carlos Jerome Dukes Jr., 19, of Pascagoula, was indicated on a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a user of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 33 months, fined $4,000 and ordered to serve three years under post-release supervision.
- Sirmarrion Davis, 21, of Pasagoula Moss Point, is a facing a state charge of capital murder in the Feb. 4 armed home invasion and killing of a man during a Super Bowl party in Moss Point.
- Byron Ratliff Jr., 21, of Pascagoula, is facing a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a user of a controlled substance. His case is pending.
- Cornelius Massey, 20, of Pascagoula, was arrested on a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a user of a controlled substance. His case is pending.