Charges detail gang ties and retaliation in recent Minneapolis murders and shootings

MPD investigators were immediately concerned about the possibility of retaliatory shootings following the killing of a prominent gang member in early August, court documents reveal.

The scene of an Aug. 7 homicide at Winner Gas in north Minneapolis.

Several people were shot or killed in Minneapolis in a matter of hours in early August and police say the incidents are connected to gang feuds and retaliation.

The details are outlined in a new document filed in Hennepin County charging four people with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the Aug. 8 shooting homicide of Darryl Ramon Wells, Jr., 25. The charges say the four have ties to local gangs.

The four men charged so far are Keon Elijah Pruitt, 18, Gregory Dwayane Hamilton, 25, William Ravon Johnson, 30, and Dantrell Deon Johnson, 28. The four were arrested and taken into custody separately between Aug. 12 and Sept. 1. All are from Minneapolis, except Hamilton, who is from Roseville.

Top: William Johnson, Dantrell Johnson. Bottom: Keon Pruitt, Gregory Hamilton. (Photos courtesy of Hennepin County Jail)

The charging document states that police had been investigating the shooting homicide of Prince Shamir Martin, 31, who was killed on Saturday, Aug. 7 as he stood outside the Winner Gas Station at 626 West Broadway Avenue in Minneapolis just after 9 p.m.

The document states Martin (formerly known as Prince Hinton) was a prominent member of the YNT/Taliban criminal street gang. YNT stands for Young-N-Thuggin. The YNT/Taliban are affiliated with the “Highs” association of criminal street gangs that operate in north Minneapolis. A check of prior case records involving Martin also revealed references to Martin’s gang affiliation and ranking with YNT.

The new criminal complaint states that given Martin’s prominence in the gang community and the manner in which he was killed, Minneapolis Police Department investigators were immediately concerned about the possibility of retaliatory shootings against the opposition gangs, which would be gangs affiliated with the “Lowz” association of criminal street gangs.

The line dividing the territory between gangs affiliated with the “Highs” and “Lowz” is roughly West Broadway Avenue, which runs east to west across north Minneapolis. The “Highs” affiliates occupy the territory to the north of West Broadway, and “Lowz” affiliates occupy territory to the south.

State and federal documents as well as past media reports have specified some of the gangs in the area of north Minneapolis to include: Young-N-Thuggin, Freeshotz, 1-9 Block Dipset Gang, Tre Tre Crips, Skitz Squad and the Stick Up Boys.

The criminal complaint states that on Aug. 8, the day following the killing of Martin, there were four separate shootings in “Lowz” hangouts that MPD attributed to retaliatory violence.

One of the shootings involved the murder of Wells, outside the Skyline Market on the 1800 block of Glenwood Avenue just before 8 p.m. Wells was not identified by name in the criminal complaint but was previously identified by the Hennepin County medical examiner.

The criminal complaint states that throughout the day of Aug. 8, 2021, numerous individuals known and recognized by law enforcement to be affiliated with the “Highs” association of gangs were gathered in the parking lot at Winner Gas Station, ostensibly mourning the loss of Prince Martin at a makeshift memorial that had been set up.

William Johnson, Dantrell Johnson and Hamilton were among the individuals.

Around 5:34 p.m., Dantrell Johnson and Hamilton were captured leaving the parking lot of Winner Gas in Johnson’s minivan. The vehicle was captured on other surveillance video doing a drive-by shooting at 5:42 p.m. at Wally’s Food at Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue North, in “Lowz” territory. A gunshot victim showed up at North Memorial Hospital within minutes of the shooting, according to police dispatch audio. The victim said they had been shot at that location.

The pair returned to Winner Gas at 5:48 p.m. and continued to interact with other “Highs” gang members, the complaint states.

At 6:06 p.m., the complaint states that William Johnson, Dantrell Johnson and Hamilton were seen leaving Winner Gas in William Johnson’s silver Dodge Charger.

At approximately 7:48 p.m., Wells, who the complaint states had no known gang affiliations, parked in front of the Skyline Market and entered the store. William Johnson’s Charger pulled up behind Wells’ vehicle.

Dantrell Johnson then immediately exited the Charger and entered the Skyline Market. Prior to entering the market, Dantrell pulled his sleeve up and covered the hand that he used to grab the door handle. Hamilton then exited the Charger and entered the store right behind Dantrell Johnson.

Surveillance from the store showed the two rapidly approached Wells and fired at him several times from close range. Dantrell Johnson was using two semi-automatic weapons, one in each hand, while Hamilton used only one firearm. They continued to fire multiple rounds at Wells as he fled out of the market.

Just prior to Wells exiting the front door of the Skyline Market, William Johnson got out of the driver’s side of his Charger, the complaint states. William Johnson was then observed pointing toward either the victim’s vehicle or the Skyline Market to a white Porsche Macan that was seen driving in front of the store at that time. When William Johnson observed Wells exit the store, he immediately got back into the driver’s seat of his Charger.

Wells fled the store and ran across the street. While running, Wells was clipped by the front driver’s side door of the Porsche, which was being driven by a person subsequently identified as Pruitt. The complaint states that Pruitt is also a known associate of the “Highs” gangs.

Dantrell Johnson and Hamilton continued to fire at Wells.

Wells ran down a nearby street and collapsed by an alley. Surveillance video showed that the white Porsche being driven by Pruitt accelerated towards Wells. Upon getting to Wells’ location, two other identified suspects (unnamed in the complaint) exited the Porsche and fired multiple rounds at Wells. The two unnamed suspects were also referred to as members of the “Highs” affiliation of street gangs in the complaint.

Wells was later pronounced deceased as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

It was later determined that the Porsche was stolen out of Minnetonka, and substantial evidence obtained from Pruitt’s cellphone indicated he was the individual who stole it.

The shooting of Wells was captured on surveillance video.

A source familiar with the case told Alpha News that the shooting of Wells may have been a case of mistaken identity or that the suspects were randomly targeting him for being in the area of “Lowz” territory.

Automatic weapons involved

Audio clips posted online following both the murders of Martin and Wells purported to be the sound of shots fired during each incident. In both audio clips from the two murders, the sound can be described as “burst-fire,” which would indicate some form of automatic weapon, or a weapon modified to fire more than one round per trigger pull.

Automatic weapons are tightly regulated in the United States and require a lengthy process of approval from the federal government in order to possess. The MPD has made no official statements about automatic weapons being used in either of these homicides or in other shots fired incidents where apparent automatic gunfire has been reported or the audio has been posted online.

Some of the handguns may be modified with what is referred to as a “switch” or drop-in auto-sear that allows some handguns to fire multiple rounds per trigger pull. These mechanisms are considered illegal by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

In the mass shooting that took place in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood of Minneapolis on Aug. 26 outside the Side Chick bar in which seven people were injured by gunfire, police dispatch audio indicated that one of the shooters was firing a “fully automatic pistol.”

The four suspects remain in custody at Hennepin County Jail on $1 million bail each and are scheduled to make their next court appearances in the coming weeks.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.