In the nearly five years since 17-year-old Rodrion Gary was shot to death on Village Green Lane, the Crips and Blacc Team street gangs have been feuding.
Gary’s death resulted from a gun battle between members of the Blacc Team, to which authorities have said Gary belonged, and members of the Crips gang.
Prosecutor Sandra Matson said the back and forth retaliation led to the Dec. 12 melee at Wings Cafe that left three people dead and several others injured.
Just before 2 a.m., members of the Blacc Team arrived at the Bloomfield Drive nightspot, a known hangout for Crips members, she said at a Thursday hearing in Bibb County Superior Court.
Video surveillance showed members of the Blacc Team as they prepared to go inside and then Crips members emerging from the back of the club, she said.
Club security used pepper spray to try to diffuse the situation, but then guns were drawn.
“At that point, it was like a gunfight you would have at the OK Corral,” Matson said.
Two of the five men charged with murder in the case appeared in court Thursday asking for bond to be set. Neither man’s request was granted.
Dennis Scheib, the attorney for 38-year-old Vertuice Wall Jr., argued that the Blacc Team to which Wall is accused of being a member is a corporation registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
“It’s a charitable organization,” he said.
Members hold fish fries and car washes, giving money to the needy, Scheib said.
Matson said the corporation was administratively dissolved by that office in 2012 for failure to file a required report.
Records show Blacc- team Dynasty Entertainment LLC was formed in 2010, but no officers or reports are listed.
She said video evidence and witness statements put Wall at the club during the shooting, but he is not alleged to have fired shots.
Scheib contends his client defended himself when someone “swung at him,” but he ran to hide in the women’s restroom when guns were drawn.
“He’s a big gang member,” he said sarcastically.
Hillary Coleman, Eric Watkins Jr.’s girlfriend, testified during his hearing that Watkins, 29, arrived at her house just before 2 a.m. and was there all night. She said he sent her text messages on his way home.
Watkins’ lawyer, Paul Christian, said two men are willing to testify they were with Watkins on the night of the shooting and they visited two other clubs, but they didn’t go to Wings Cafe.
Matson asked the case detective, who was in the courtroom, if the men had given official statements, and he replied they had not.
“Many people are afraid to give a statement on the record,” Christian said, noting that they know people affiliated with both gangs. They’re scared that talking might “put them on the wrong end of the bullet.”
During Matson’s questioning of Coleman, she admitted that a cousin was shot in the foot during the same shooting that killed Gary in 2010.
But, she said her only involvement in that case was helping her cousin pay for an attorney.
“I’ve always been a law-abiding woman,” Coleman said.
Matson said another woman has given a conflicting statement offering Watkins an alibi.
Christian maintained that a bartender also is willing to testify as an alibi witness.
Although Watkins has admitted he was a leader of the Blacc Team in the past, Christian said, “he is too old now to be the head of any gang.”
Matson said ballistic tests are being run on a gun recovered from Watkins’ home that matches the caliber of shots fired at the club. Multiple weapons of different calibers were used.
Christian also said Watkins is a lifelong Macon resident who was employed before his arrest. Although Matson said Watkins was charged with obstructing witness testimony in 2009, Christian said he has no prior felony record.
Wall testified that if he’s released he’ll go to Austell, where he and his fiance recently moved.
Before his arrest, he had worked as an unarmed security guard at a Marietta apartment complex for about six months.
He said he’s unsure if he still has a job.
Scheib maintained that although Wall served 10 years in prison for an aggravated assault charge, he hasn’t gotten into trouble since his release in 2005.
Matson countered that Wall was accused of violating his probation in 2009, and he was convicted of burglary in 1995.
She said early in the hearings that witnesses have been intimidated while investigators wrap up their part of the probe.
A house where the mother of one of the victims lives has been damaged by gunfire since the shooting, she said.
She said she anticipates presenting the case to a grand jury before the 90-day mark of the suspects’ arrests. A person isn’t automatically entitled to a bond until the 90-day clock expires.
In denying bond for each of the men, Judge Verda Colvin said the cases are relatively new.
She also expressed concern about Wall’s history on probation and his holding a security job.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.