'Got 'em'

Chapter 5: Laughing emojis mark another victim as feds search Detroit for an AR-15-style rifle

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Editor's note: Detroit News reporter Robert Snell spent more than a year investigating Detroit’s gang wars and the Justice Department’s attempts to topple the Seven Mile Bloods. This is the fifth chapter in the "Death by Instagram" series.

Accused Seven Mile Bloods leader Billy Arnold had help hunting rivals during the gang war, according to trial testimony. Prosecutors say the girlfriend of slain gang leader Devon McClure helped search the east side.

The girlfriend is 24-year-old Matleah Scott, according to court records and testimony. People call her “M Thang.” McClure coined the nickname because he was unsure initially how to pronounce Matleah.

After McClure was killed, prosecutors say she exchanged text messages with Billy Arnold seeking vengeance.

On May 8, 2015, the day of McClure’s funeral visitation, she performed reconnaissance, scouting the neighborhood for targets, passing along to Arnold the makes, models and colors of cars containing potential targets.

At 5:44 p.m., prosecutors say she found one near Denby High School, southeast of The Red Zone, the Seven Mile Bloods' turf.

Denby High School

An hour later, several blocks south of Denby High, neighbors were enjoying the warm spring weather, a Friday night on the east side of Detroit.

Bernice Griffin, 70, sat on her porch near the intersection of Duchess Avenue and Craft Street watching her grandkids play on the sidewalk, one on a skateboard, one on a bike.

As the kids played, a Pontiac G6 pulled up to a house a few doors away.

The Pontiac G6 carried three members of the Mapleridge Boys, a rival east side gang, the government alleged.

Dvante “Little” Roberts rode shotgun. His brother Darrio Roberts sat in the back with Marquis Wicker.

Dvante "Little" Roberts (Photo: GoFundMe)

Witnesses spotted a gray Chrysler 300 pull alongside the Pontiac G6.

Multiple shooters opened fire on the Pontiac G6.

Griffin, the neighbor, thought she heard firecrackers.

Wicker, sitting in the back of the Pontiac G6, was sure he’d heard gunshots.

“Tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk,” Wicker, 25, testified.

Nine bullets hit Wicker in the arm, chest, neck, back and thumb.

“I looked at my right hand. My thumb, it was almost (shot) all the way off,” Wicker, 25. “It was hanging by a thread.”

One bullet struck 19-year-old Dvante "Little" Roberts in the left side of the head, lacerated the brain and exited through his temple, Assistant Wayne County Medical Examiner Avneesh Gupta testified.

He was shot at such close range, soot and gunpowder stained his face.

“I heard him coughin’ up,” Wicker testified, “like choking on his blood.”

Dvante "Little" Roberts was shot in a drive-by attack outside this home, south of Denby High School.

Dvante Roberts' brother was shot in the head and survived. Wicker was in critical condition for several days.

Doctors saved his thumb.

When Wicker woke, he had a tube down his throat and a question for his family.

Wicker raised a hand in an “L” shape — a signal to his sister that he was asking about Dvante "Little" Roberts.

“'Little,'” his sister said, “he dead.”

After "Little" died, the Seven Mile Bloods’ Instagram page featured a photo of the dead teenager and a caption that included three laughing emojis and the words “got ’em.”

This photo of Dvante "Little" Roberts and caption were posted on the Seven Mile Bloods' Instagram page after Roberts was killed, the government says. (Photo: U.S. Attorney's Office)

Investigators found 15 shell casings on the street and sidewalk near where Roberts was killed. Ballistic tests showed some of the shell casings matched the AR-15-style, semi-automatic rifle used in the Ralpheal Carter shooting, according to court records.

Investigators, however, could not find the rifle.

They would spend all summer looking for it.

'Bust him' 

On Mother’s Day 2015, two days after the Dvante Roberts homicide, the Seven Mile Bloods kept hunting for rivals, prosecutors allege.

Arnold, accused Seven Mile Bloods member Robert Brown and a third man found new targets at a red light at the intersection of State Fair and Hoover, west of the Red Zone, according to court records.

Seven Mile Bloods members exacted revenge during a shooting west of The Red Zone, prosecutors said. 

Two gunmen approached a black Chevrolet Impala idling at the intersection.

“Bust at him, it’s a red light,” someone yelled.

Arnold, Brown and others opened fire, spraying the Impala with at least 64 bullets — including more than three dozen rounds from the same AR-15-style rifle, according to court records.

Alleged Hustle Boys member Darnell Canady -- whose photo appeared on an Instagram hit list posted by the Seven Mile Bloods -- was driving the Impala. The bullets missed him but wounded another Hustle Boy.

A month later, Canady was at a Roseville banquet center celebrating the birth of his baby.

“Billy Arnold ... shot up the baby shower,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline said.

This time, the bullets didn’t miss Canady.

One round struck a bystander and another round hit Canady in the leg.

“It went in,” Canady, 26, testified, “and went straight out.”

READ CHAPTER 6 | Stripped bare: A strip club, a car chase and a hidden clue leads to a gang’s demise.

 

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