Gang member used Internet to track targets
Leader was calculating and patient, police say

November 3, 2006

He downloaded his rivals' photos from the Illinois Department of Corrections Web site and handed them off to his hitmen.

And then he waited, ever patient for the right time and place to have them killed.

Such was the work of Melvin "Ben Ben" Martin, a high-ranking New Breed gang member and key player in the 10-month bloody feud between his gang and the Traveling Vice Lords, authorities said.

Martin was accused Thursday of orchestrating much of the violence -- including a planned hit this past Monday that was foiled by Chicago Police and ended in officers shooting two would-be hitmen to death and injuring a third at a Humboldt Park intersection, authorities said.

The ongoing gang war -- which has claimed the lives of at least 19 gang members, and injured a number of bystanders -- prompted an undercover investigation that, no longer secret since the police shooting, was laid out Thursday by law enforcement.

Feud has claimed 19
Officials painted a chilling picture of Martin, who was so calculating that he'd have hitmen wear latex gloves so gunshot residue wouldn't show up on their hands, and their handprints wouldn't be found on the gun, authorities said. He'd have them carry out hits during busy times of the day -- including when school was letting out -- so shooters could better blend in to crowds, police said.

Martin also would go to the state corrections Web site, locate mugshots of his gang's intended targets and print them out for hitmen so they would know for whom they're looking.

"He was the treacherous guy,'' a law enforcement source said. "He was devious, cunning. . . . He thought out his hits. But you could be sure it was coming.''

A computer was confiscated from Martin, the brother of a high-ranking New Breed member who was killed years ago on the West Side, the source said.

"The more these guys learn about computers, the more dangerous they are going to be,'' the source said. "This is the first time we have come across where they are using technology to identify their targets."

This feud between the two gangs -- which have a historic hate for each other -- likely started over who controls drug sales on a block. Others have said it involved a girl.

Investigators say Monday's planned hit likely stemmed from Friday morning's fatal shooting of 17-year-old New Breed member Marquell Harper. He was gunned down, allegedly by a member of the Traveling Vice Lords, while walking a 10-year-old to school in the 3300 block of West Douglas, authorities said.

In all, the war has claimed the lives of at least 14 Traveling Vice Lords and five New Breeds since January. Bystanders were among those wounded, including a 69-year-old woman who was sitting on her porch on a Friday last July, police said.

The woman felt a "light tap" on her leg. "I looked down and saw the blood and started praying,'' she said Thursday by phone.

A retired City Colleges secretary, the woman moved into the house because there was space to garden. Now she's scared to rake her leaves.

Police hope the violence will ebb with Martin's arrest. Although he is accused of orchestrating much of the trouble, he so far is charged only in connection with Monday's incident in which police shot and killed reputed gang members Marcus Thomas, 21, and William Tyler, 23. They were in a car with a third alleged New Breed member, Tristan Scaggs, when officers -- after learning about a planned hit from secret wiretaps -- stopped the vehicle at Augusta and Kedzie.

Police shoot-out
The three allegedly were armed with a 9mm and an AK-47. Thomas raised the rifle at police, and Scaggs, 19, pointed the handgun at them, authorities said. Police heard someone say, "Get those bitches," prosecutors said.

The cops announced who they were and opened fire, prosecutors said. Scaggs was wounded and on Thursday was ordered held without bail.

It's unclear whether he or his partners fired any shots.

Another reputed New Breed leader, Lamell "Slim" Burns, also was charged Thursday in connection with Monday's incident.