Six gang members federally charged in series of violent Twin Cities carjackings

The defendants maintained active membership in the street gang known as the “Top 5.”

Top: Isaiah Alstad, Clifton Walker, Jr., Jordan Rhodes. Bottom: Eric Ballard, Jr., James Williams, Joshoamei Richardson

Six members of a violent Twin Cities street gang are facing federal charges in a series of carjackings authorities say they carried out for financial benefit in order to retaliate against rival gangs.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald announced the indictment this week against defendants Joshoamei Deangelo Richardson, 19, James Brock Williams Jr., 20, Clifton Germaine Walker Jr., 23, and Eric T. Ballard Jr., 18, all of St. Paul, and Jordan Sydney Shamah Rhodes, 22, of White Bear Lake, and Isaiah Stacy Alstad, 22, of Columbia Heights.

The six are each charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence while armed. Five of the defendants face other charges involving aiding and abetting carjacking and other firearms charges. Three are additionally charged with felon in possession of a firearm and one is charged with carrying a firearm by a controlled substance user.

According to the allegations in the indictment and other court documents, from at least May 2020 through January 2021, the defendants maintained active membership in the street gang known as the “Top 5.” The purpose of the gang was to make money for its members through criminal acts, including thefts, robberies, and distribution and sale of controlled substances. The proceeds obtained through the criminal acts were distributed among the Top 5 members.

The statement said that Top 5 gang members would use, carry, and possess firearms to commit these criminal acts as well as carry out acts of violence against rival gang members, including shootings and assaults. The Top 5 gang members also used social media to discuss criminal activity, recruit new members, and display cash, firearms, and controlled substances.

The review of charges highlighted a particularly violent spree that involved three carjackings over the course of seven hours on Aug. 25.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., Williams and Ballard carjacked a 2006 BMW 530i at gunpoint near the 1200 block of Jackson Street in St. Paul and physically assaulted the driver of the vehicle.

Later that morning, at approximately 6:50 a.m., Richardson, Williams, Alstad, Walker, and Ballard carjacked a person at gunpoint and took a 2012 Dodge Charger from the parking lot of a restaurant near White Bear Avenue in St. Paul.

A few hours later, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Richardson, Williams, Alstad, and Ballard carjacked another person at gunpoint for a 2012 Subaru Outback at Maria Avenue near Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

The charges allege that the defendants illegally possessed 10 semiautomatic pistols and committed other violent acts and crimes over the time period outlined in the indictment.

The St. Paul Police Department released a report of preliminary 2020 year-end crime statistics earlier this month in which it stated that robberies had increased by more than 32% in 2020 over 2019. The overall violent crime rate increased by 25%, which includes homicide, aggravated assault, rape and robbery.

The St. Paul report does not separate carjackings from the total number of robberies like Minneapolis decided to start doing in September because the problem had become so significant. Minneapolis had a 301% increase in carjackings in 2020 over 2019.

Despite a reported crackdown on robberies beginning late last month that saw 40 people arrested in Hennepin County, relatively few people have been charged related to carjackings.

The crime is seemingly continuing in record numbers with several reports of carjackings on Wednesday night in the span of just several minutes in Uptown and the surrounding areas of Minneapolis’ 5th Precinct, according to police scanner reports posted by Crime Watch Minneapolis. Another carjacking followed a short time later in northeast Minneapolis, in addition to one reported earlier around 10 a.m. just one block from the 2nd Precinct building.

The press release on the federal charges against the six gang members states that all are currently being held in custody pending further proceedings.

These cases are the result of investigations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Saint Paul Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department, the Columbia Heights Police Department, and the South Saint Paul Police Department.

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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.