HARRISONBURG -- Members of the Harrisonburg Police Department and Rockingham County Sheriff's Office are working hard to end gang activity in the area.
Several gang task force investigations during 2012 recently ended with plea agreements from multiple offenders. The CHARGE Unit, made up of members of the Harrisonburg Police Department and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, oversaw these investigations.
Bryan Horowitz, the coordinator of the gang unit in the Harrisonburg Police office, says there are more than a dozen gangs in the area. He says he hopes these arrests send a message to other gang members out there.
"Locking up gang members and sending them to prison, that has its place and if things have gotten to that point, it's necessary, however, what's often overlooked is the movement prior to that, preventing people from getting involved in that in the first place," said Horowitz.
Four of the recent plea agreements of the known gang members are as follows:
Marlon Wright, 22, Harrisonburg, pleaded guilty to several charges on March 29th. Officers investigated Wright's involvement in a shooting at Ralph Sampson Park in March, a robbery, an assault, gang participation, and multiple drug and firearms offenses. He was sentenced to 32.5 years in prison, with all but seven and a half suspended.
Trey Scott, 21, Staunton, pleaded guilty to several charges as well. Officers investigated Scott for his involvement in a gang-related assault and robbery that occurred on Devon Lane at the end of March. He was sentenced to 40 years with all but 14.5 suspended.
Leonardo Mendoza-Ramirez, 29, Siler City, N.C., and Rafael Mendoza-Ramirez, 21, Siler City, N.C., also pleaded guilty to several charges between December and February. CHARGE officers investigated the two in connection with a gang-related stabbing that occurred in the parking lot of the Harrisonburg O'Charley's in August 2012. Leonardo Mendoza-Ramirez was sentenced to 20 years with all but four suspended. Rafael Mendoza-Ramirez was sentenced to five years with all but two suspended.
Horowitz said officers are focusing on programs to prevent gang violence. Right now, they're visiting schools to teach kids about those dangers.
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