By Rocco Parascandola And Luis Perez, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
Apr. 17–A woman in a Laundromat. A husband and wife. A 58-year-old man.
It doesn’t sound like the typical drug crew, but authorities say these people are among 53 suspects linked to a South Jamaica drug operation that has brought with it a level of violence not seen in southeast Queens in a number of years, with seven slayings near one notorious intersection – 109th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard.
“I would put 109th and Guy Brewer just about right up there with any other place in the city for violence,” says Insp. Robert Napolitano, head of Queens Narcotics. “There has been a lot of violence – and the catalyst has been the continuing drug trade.”
The intersection looks harmless enough; its most distinguishing feature is a huge billboard for Combat bug spray.
“Kill one and destroy them all,” the ad reads.
For quite some time, police say, such words seemed to describe life on the street below, with drug users hitting the area to buy crack, marijuana and heroin. The illicit trade has made life tough for merchants and residents, particularly those who live in the South Jamaica and Baisley Park houses, projects on either side of Guy R. Brewer Boulevard.
“A lot of nice and good people live there,” Napolitano said. “These people don’t deserve this crap.”
Following the drug trail
Now police are hoping they have put a permanent dent in the area drug trade by going after the mid- and top-level dealers and dedicating a uniformed presence to the hot spot since the 53 arrests made beginning in late February.
None of those charged are responsible, police say, for any of the killings or the shooting injuries of nine people near the intersection since the beginning of 2004.
But police and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown say those charged in six of the killings have proven links to the area’s flourishing drug trade. So, too, do most of those slain or wounded in the violence, they said.
In two cases, however, innocent people were shot.
Take, for instance, the death of Correction Officer Gregory Goff, 24, who was killed by a bullet meant for someone else.
Goff, of Jamaica, was off duty in the early-morning hours of Feb. 7, 2004, at a party at the Lebanon Lodge No. 54 when two men opened fire, the result of an argument over who was going to dance with a particular woman.
Two of the three suspects later arrested had been previously arrested in the area on drug charges, police said.
The same goes for ex-con Jeffrey Heirs, 33, accused of shooting a bodega clerk on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard on Dec. 27, 2004.
Heirs, who was convicted recently of robbery in the case and is awaiting sentencing, has served time for a drug conviction.
Among those arrested as part of the five-month investigation is Kim Perkins, 48, a woman who each afternoon would leave her home and step right next door to go to work at the Guy R. Brewer Boulevard Laundromat.
There, police said, Perkins was the sole worker on the 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift and often dealt heroin to her customers, street-level sellers.
Perkins, who did 2 years in prison in the early 1990s for selling drugs, has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $25,000 bail.
Police said that when they busted Perkins inside the Laundromat on April 5, she made a mad dash toward the bathroom. But officers stopped her before she was able to flush about 100 envelopes of heroin down the toilet, police said.
Perkins’ son, David, could not be reached for comment, and her court-appointed lawyer, Russell Rothberg, said he was not yet familiar enough with Perkins or the charges against her to comment.
Doing brisk business close by, police said, were crack dealers and a marijuana operation fronted by a husband-and-wife team, Walter and Deanna McIlwain, both of whom are accused of selling the drug out of their home on Union Hall Street.
Walter McIlwain, 45, is an ex-con who has served time for drugs and robbery, police said. Deanna McIlwain, 44, has no previous arrests.
The couple’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
The oldest suspect, police said, is John Smith, 58. Arrested April 6 for crack possession, he has pleaded guilty and is serving 10 days in jail.
Smith will probably be out by the beginning of this week, but Napolitano said the NYPD is hoping its game plan of intensive uniformed street presence will keep Smith and other dealers and users away from Guy R. Brewer Boulevard.
Napolitano said this strategy still is in place in Far Rockaway, where officers have been on the streets by the Dix McBride Apartments and the Redfern Houses for up to 18 hours a day following a series of crack dealer arrests earlier this year.
“Our sources down there have not reported any resurgence of drugs, either street-level or inside,” Napolitano said. “We don’t want to lose any ground to the dealers.”
Will it work?
Several South Jamaica residents and merchants say they already have seen a difference. But one Baisley Park Houses resident, a 25-year-old woman who identified herself only as Star, sounded a cautionary note.
“If you can’t get a job and the baby is screaming down your back, you have to do whatever to survive,” she said. “What else are you supposed to do?”
Slayings and nonfatal shootings, many of them drug-related, near 109th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard since January 2004, according to the NYPD:
Jan. 21, 2004: Terrance Neal, 19, of South Jamaica, was stabbed to death at 106-57 160th St. Andre Shobey, 47, was convicted of killing Neal.
Feb. 7, 2004: Four people were shot, including off-duty Correction Officer Gregory Goff, 24, of Jamaica, killed during a party at Lebanon Lodge No. 54, a Masonic temple at 107-51 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
Feb. 24, 2004: Terence Burt, 35, of South Jamaica, was shot dead at 167th Street and 108th Avenue, and two others were shot. The suspect in the case had prior drug arrests.
May 1, 2004: Stanley Hammond, 37, of South Jamaica, was beaten to death at a playground at 106-50 159th St. Authorities say the slaying stemmed from a drug-turf dispute.
May 3, 2004: Roger Helenese was shot in front of 109-56 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
Aug. 23, 2004: JoJo Leverette, 24, of South Jamaica, a heroin dealer, was fatally shot at 109th Avenue and 164th Street.
Dec. 27, 2004: A clerk in a bodega at 109-02 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. was shot and wounded during a robbery gone bad. The suspect in the shooting has a history of drug arrests.
July 28, 2005: Tabias Walker, 29, was robbed and beaten to death at 107-01 166th St. Authorities said he had just bought and used crack.
Oct. 24, 2005: Jeffrey Bellamy, 40, was shot dead at 109th Avenue and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. Police said Bellamy had a history of drug arrests.
Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
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