J'Ouvert festival draws gangs fighting over drug turf

The Smith & Wesson pistol was still there Sept. 7, two nights after J’Ouvert, resting at the bottom of a recycling bin in an alley off Nostrand Ave. in East Flatbush.

A 17-year-old Folk Nation street gang member, who identified himself as LaShawn (Loop) Hutchinson, reached down and retrieved the black 9-mm., placing it a backpack with drug paraphernalia and spare bullets.

“See? Told you they don’t check all these,” Hutchinson told his fellow gang member — identified only as “Qway” Frasier, 18, who did not want to give his first name. He had been worried the semiautomatic might have been seized by cops looking for weapons during the predawn festival.

Carey Gabay, an aide to Gov. Cuomo, was killed when he was struck with a stray bullet during the 2015 J'Ouvert festival.

Carey Gabay, an aide to Gov. Cuomo, was killed when he was struck with a stray bullet during the 2015 J’Ouvert festival.

(Judy Sanders/AP)

The men had stashed the gun in the bin a week earlier, in case they needed to retrieve it during J’Ouvert.

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“Around here, you never know” when using a gun will be necessary, said Frasier.

At the heart of this underworld battle is J’Ouvert, the Labor Day street party that’s a magnet for gang violence. The conflict, these gang members said, is the primary reason for bloodshed at the annual festival.

Tiarah Poyau, 22, and Tyreke Borel, 17, were fatally shot in separate incidents at the Sept. 5 event, police said. No arrests have been made in the Borel shooting.

A 72-year-old woman was among five other people wounded in nonfatal shootings and stabbings, police said.

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Authorities have not officially said whether they suspect gang involvement in any of the incidents, but Hutchinson and Frasier claim warring sets of gang members carried out gun or knife attacks during the festival.

A Bloods gang member who calls himself "Gotti" walks up Nostrand Ave. in Crown Heights.

A Bloods gang member who calls himself “Gotti” walks up Nostrand Ave. in Crown Heights.

(Kevin Deutsch/New York Daily News)

J’Ouvert traverses drug-dealing turf in Crown Heights and Flatbush that’s controlled by various gangs — including FolkNation, an offshoot of the original Chicago-based gang of the same name.

Armed and ready, the duo made their way toward Bedford Ave. Their mission, Hutchinson said, was to “hunt” for and shoot enemy members of three other gangs. They include the Eight-Trey Crips, the Franklin Avenue Family Crew, which is a Crips affiliate, and a local Bloods set, all of which are locked in a war with Folk Nation over drug territory in Brooklyn.

“J’Ouvert (is) just one night,” Hutchinson said. “We out here every day.”

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NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (2nd from left) and his department beefed up security for 2016 J'Ouvert, but it didn't stop the violence.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (2nd from left) and his department beefed up security for 2016 J’Ouvert, but it didn’t stop the violence.

(Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News)

For more than a year, members of the four crews have been fighting over drug-dealing spots in at least three Brooklyn housing complexes. Four members or gang associates have been killed in the conflict and at least 11 others wounded in gunfire or knife attacks.

This year’s shootings and stabbings at J’Ouvert occurred in spite of beefed-up police presence prompted by the slaying at J’Ouvert last year of Gov. Cuomo’s aide Carey Gabay, 43, who was hit by a stray bullet fired during a shootout between gang members.

As a result of its location, the festival has become a proving ground for gun-toting drug dealers and gangland enforcers.

“They all see each other out there (at J’Ouvert), and some of them are shooting,” said Natasha Wallace, a former Black Guerrilla Family gang member in Baltimore who now works to end underworld beefs in Brooklyn and Queens before they turn deadly.

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“J’Ouvert just amplifies the beef every year,” she added.

The turf being fought over by the gangs is extremely valuable, according to several Folk Nation members, who estimate their gang’s drug-dealing operation alone earns up to $ 2,000 a day.

Tyreke Borel, 17, was shot and killed at this year's J'Ouvert.

Tyreke Borel, 17, was shot and killed at this year’s J’Ouvert.

(Facebook)

Tiarah Poyau, 22, was also killed during this year's event.

Tiarah Poyau, 22, was also killed during this year’s event.

(Facebook)

A disagreement over how to share those proceeds inside Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field Apartments led to a rift between Folk Nation and the Eight-Trey Crips, once allies, a little over six years ago.

In 2015, the Franklin Avenue Family Crew and the Bloods joined the conflict, hoping to exploit the Folk Nation/Eight-Trey split, according to gang members.

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Retaliatory shootings became commonplace — leading all four gangs to declare war on one another.

“Lot of blocks up for grabs, is how they see it,” Frasier said of Folk Nation’s rivals.

“But that’s foolish,” he added, insisting that the disputed turf belongs to Folk Nation alone.

One Brooklyn Bloods member, who identified himself by his nickname, “Gotti,” said the Bloods’ and Franklin Avenue Family Crew’s original rationale for joining the gang war — achieving territorial gains — had been eclipsed by other, more personal beefs between the gangs.

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“People just pop off (fire bullets) over anything now,” he said.

On the eve of this year’s J’Ouvert, cops swept in and busted 35 alleged gangbangers and confiscated 10 guns in an effort to tamp down on the violence.

The yellow graffiti is a tag belonging to Folk Nation, a gang beefing with other crews in Brooklyn.

The yellow graffiti is a tag belonging to Folk Nation, a gang beefing with other crews in Brooklyn.

(Kevin Deutsch/New York Daily News)

Nonetheless, an NYPD source with knowledge of the conflict said gang members or their associates are believed responsible for at least some of the violence at J’Ouvert this year.

The 9-mm. the teens hid in a recycling bin had been bought by Hutchinson just days before J’Ouvert — the Folk Nation lieutenant claiming he purchased it from an associate in Coney Island.

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“Next year,” said Hutchinson, “things probably won’t be no different.”

Kevin Deutsch is the author of “The Triangle: A Year on the Ground With New York’s Bloods and Crips.”

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