Cops: 3 killings linked to Black Disciples solved

Chicago Sun-Times,  May 2, 2005  by Frank Main

Chicago Police say they have solved three murders linked to the Black Disciples -- the street gang whose alleged leaders were federally charged last year with laundering up to $300,000 a day in drug profits through a record company, a nightclub and other investments.

Marvel Thompson, the reputed "king" of the BDs, and more than 20 co-defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine. The federal indictment filed last May did not charge any of them with murder.

But as part of a plea agreement, one of the defendants, Kenyatta Coates, 30, allegedly told a grand jury he killed two people, and he subsequently was charged with two counts of murder in March in Cook County Criminal Court.

The Chicago Police Department's cold case squad solved a third gangland hit involving the Black Disciples, but the suspected killer wound up committing suicide before he could be arrested, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

At least six killings involving the gang are being reviewed, a source said.

Suicide prevents arrest

Coates, a "board member" of the drug-dealing business, confessed to shooting 28-year-old Richard Hemphill as he got out of a car in the 6700 block of South Claremont on Nov. 14, 1998, prosecutors said.

Before the killing, Coates had been supplying narcotics to a Gangster Disciples member, said Thomas Mahoney, a Cook County assistant state's attorney. Coates went to 67th and Claremont to "settle a score" over an argument among the Gangster Disciples about one of their members selling drugs supplied by the Black Disciples, Mahoney said.

Coates also is charged with murder in the Nov. 26, 1994, shooting of Leroy Johnson in the 6500 block of South Yale. About the same time and place, another man, Thomas Ramey, 30, was fatally shot in the back of the head. An investigation is continuing into the Ramey murder. The shooting was gang-related, officials said.

Police have cleared a third murder tied to the Black Disciples, but the suspected killer committed suicide.

The Black Disciples had incorrectly thought that one of their own, Emmanuel Turner, was working as a federal informant against the gang, authorities said. So on Feb. 26, 2002, Turner was killed execution-style, with one bullet to the back of the head, as he sat in a car in the 5800 block of South Western. But when police recently went looking for the shooter so they could arrest him, they learned he had shot himself to death.

Police are continuing to investigate other murders that members of the crew are suspected of committing, said Joseph Alesia, an assistant U.S. attorney handling the Black Disciples case.

Corporate CEO?

Prosecutors have accused Thompson of ordering one gang member to shoot another in the hand for violating an order, but he is not charged in any killings. He is sitting in the Kenosha County (Wis.) Jail awaiting sentencing in August on the drug conspiracy charges.

In a guilty plea, Thompson admitted to distributing more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than a kilogram of heroin, but he denied he is the king of the BDs or that he conspired with his 46 co- defendants -- more than 20 of whom have pleaded guilty -- to sell dope.

Thompson ran the gang like a corporate CEO, sinking millions of dollars of drug revenue into an Atlanta nightclub, a rap record label called M.O.B. and rental properties -- as well as operating a pirate radio station that broadcasted rap music and alerted gang members to police activity in the Englewood neighborhood, prosecutors said.

Thompson was elevated to king of the gang in 1991, authorities said. He filled a void left by reputed Black Disciples leader Jerome "Shorty" Freeman, who allegedly ran the gang in the 1970s and 1980s. Freeman went to prison in 1990 on a drug conviction and was paroled in March.