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Detroit street gang IJU targeted in racketeering crackdown

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal prosecutors unsealed racketeering and drug charges Thursday against seven men, including the purported leader of the It's Just Us street gang who is accused of killing a man outside an eastside bar.

The case against alleged leader Duane "Juan" Peterson, 35, of Detroit was unsealed more than three years after prosecutors say he was paid $10,000 to kill handyman Christopher Marcilis outside B.O.B.'Z Lounge near Harper and Interstate 94. Marcilis, 34, was killed as retaliation for insulting the gang and a deceased member, according to the indictment.

Duane Peterson

Prosecutors accuse Peterson of heading a racketeering conspiracy from 2014-19 that included dealing pain pills, fentanyl-laced heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana, and committing homicide and violent assaults.

The indictment is the latest crackdown on violent street gangs by using federal racketeering laws, a tactic that has led to more than 100 people being charged in federal court in Detroit in recent years.

“Our message to violent drug-dealing gang members could not be more clear: our federal and state law enforcement team knows exactly who you are, and we are coming after you,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “Today, our neighborhoods are safer because these violent gang members are off our streets.”

The Detroit News highlighted the racketeering strategy, which carries long prison sentences, and how prosecutors used the charge against members of the Seven Mile Bloods gang in the crime series "Death by Instagram" two years ago.

Seven Mile Bloods

The Detroit men charged Thursday are:

  • Dionne Peterson, aka "Chapo Streeter" and "Streets," 34, who prosecutors say was a lieutenant in the gang.
  • Deshawn Peterson, aka "Red," 30, who also is accused of being a lieutenant.
  • Luther Peterson, aka "Mook," 26, who also is identified as a lieutenant.

Prosecutors charged three other men who were identified in the indictment as lower-ranking IJU members. They are:

  • Dayquan Johnson, aka "Day Day," 23.
  • James Davis, aka "Jamo," 26.
  • Melvin Brown, aka "June," 21.

All seven defendants are either in state or federal custody.

Duane Peterson is serving a state prison case for assault and weapons crimes. His earliest release date is 2042.

Deshawn Peterson and Davis made brief appearances in federal court Thursday. They are being temporarily detained until a bond hearing Monday and are in the process of receiving court-appointed lawyers.

It's Just Us, abbreviated as IJU, was founded by the Peterson family in 2014 and operated primarily on the east side of Detroit, according to the indictment. The gang also was known as 458, Young N Turnt, 25 and Block Kings, or BK.

Prosecutors say the gang stashed guns and drugs in houses across the area and claimed certain bars and restaurants as part of the gang's turf.

"Patrons and owners recognized IJU members and gave them the privilege of carrying firearms inside the business and remaining at the business after hours," the indictment reads.

IJU members distributed drugs in Flint and Jackson and traveled to West Virginia cities, including Huntington and Parkersburg, according to the government.

"IJU members transported the drugs for sale by affixing them to the bumper or engine area of the car in magnetic boxes," the indictment reads. "Sometimes, they employed females to hide the drugs on their person."

Prospective members were required to sell drugs and commit acts of violence before joining IJU, according to the government. New members were required to get the letters IJU or numbers 458, tattooed on their bodies and wearing IJU-branded clothes, prosecutors said.

Members created a climate of fear in the community by committing acts of violence, threats and intimidation, according to the government.

The violence turned deadly on May 17, 2017, on the eastside of Detroit, prosecutors said.

That day, an unidentified person offered Duane Peterson and a second member $10,000 to kill Marcilis, who is referred to in the indictment as "C.M."

Christopher Marcilis

Duane Peterson and others, including Dayquan Johnson, Luther Peterson and Melvin Brown confronted Marcilis at B.O.B.'Z Lounge, according to prosecutors.

Marcilis retreated as IJU members shot at him and eventually fell on his face.

Duane Peterson and another member aimed their handguns at the back of Marcilis' head, prosecutors said. Peterson fired his handgun, killing the man, according to the indictment.

Investigators later recovered handguns from the roof of a nearby building. Forensic analysis linked the firearms to ammunition casings found near Marcilis' body.

After the Marcilis killing, Duane Peterson and a second unidentified member split the $10,000, according to the government.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @RobertSnellnews