by Robin Kemp

Conley residents have seen more than 300 arrests in their neighborhood in the past month during a crackdown called “Operation Gabriel” that is seeking whoever fired the shot that killed a 7-year-old boy in his own bedroom.

The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office has been rounding up hundreds of alleged drug dealers and gang members in Conley during “Operation Gabriel,” a full-court press to find out who is responsible for the shooting death of 7-year-old Gabriel Vasquez. The boy was killed by a stray bullet that flew into his home on Lamont Avenue from what CCSO calls a “gang-related shooting” that allegedly involved an 18-year-old and a group of people in a white sedan. The 18-year-old was also struck and wounded.

As part of the larger operation, the Atlanta Police Department’s APEX (Atlanta Proactive Enforcement and Interdiction) Unit raided a drug house in Fulton County on the Clayton-Atlanta border around 4 p.m. May 13.

After “an uptick in crime in that area,” said APEX Commander Lt. Robert Albertini, “we did receive some intelligence and surveillance and we were able to gather enough evidence to secure a search warrant for the house.”

Based on information and surveillance, APEX got a warrant to search the house at 3852 Bonnie Lane SE. “On our approach, we had one person jump out of the house and try running away who was later captured. He was actually charged with the narcotics.”

Jermaine Marignay was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm during commission of a felony (VGCSA), possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, trafficking in cocaine, and trafficking in illegal drugs. Several alleged customers in the house at the time were not arrested, Albertini said.

Inside, police seized 280 grams of cocaine, 106 grams of MDMA (ecstasy), 834 grams of marijuana, 15 THC vape pens, and “small amounts of heroin and Xanax,” Albertini said. “It was pretty much a drugstore.”

Police also confiscated a pistol and about $1,000. The gun did not come back as having been stolen.

Albertini said a recent uptick in crime on Bonnie Lane had caught APD’s attention, and that another warrant had been executed last month on a house down the street from the one APEX raided May 13.

Fulton County tax records show the nondescript brick home with four white columns is owned by Yotah Koulagna, who bought it in 2015. Police did not indicate whether Koulagna had any knowledge of the alleged drug activity on her property.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has named only a few of the 342 people arrested as of May 13:

Darnell “Debo” Hansa Howard, 28, who Hill says is the brother of an 18-year-old man wounded in the shootout, had outstanding warrants for aggravated assault with a firearm and probation violation stemming from an October 20, 2019 shooting in the 4000 block of Jewell Terrace. Howard is in the Clayton County Jail, charged with felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, battery-family violence, and probation violation.

Shunderrious Keimon Bankston, 20, of Atlanta, who was picked up at a Brookhaven extended stay after fleeing a Clayton County Police traffic stop, is charged with fleeing police, reckless driving, speeding, driving without a license, failing to use headlights, running a red light or traffic control device, aggravated assault and participation in criminal gang activity in connection with Vasquez’ death. Hill alleges that Bankston belongs to the YSL gang. Bankston is in the Clayton County jail and was denied bond on the aggravated assault and criminal gang activity charges.

Vincent Raymond Hughes, 30, of Forest Park, was arrested on Thurman Road after he allegedly leaped from a second-floor window trying to escape CCSO deputies. According to Hill, the Georgia Bureau Investigation’s Child Exploration and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC) allegedly “found Hughes uploading child pornography onto social media sites with children as young as 5 years old,” and Hill alleges Hughes “confessed to the G.B.I. to multiple statutory rapes and child molestations involving children under the age of 15 as well as being in possession of child pornography.” In addition, Hill said, Hughes had an active warrant for a probation violation on child molestation charges in Douglas County. Hughes is in the Clayton County Jail on two counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of false information or failing to register as a sex offender.

Hill posted to his Nixle account that CCSO also has recovered 15 stolen vehicles, 34 stolen firearms, and nearly $100,000 in cash during the operation.

Hill thanked APD Chief Erika Shields for sending in the APEX Unit: “The removal of this drug house is a great victory for the citizens of Conley and a tribute to Gabriel who lost his life to senseless gang gun violence.”

Albertini said, “Were really grateful to be able to collaborate on a critical neighborhood initiative such as Operation Gabriel.”

Conley residents on the Neighbors app have been making note of various CCSO roadblocks since the operation started.

Anyone with information about the Gabriel Vasquez shooting is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (404) 577-8477 or use CCSO’s anonymous Nixle web form or text the letters TIP CCSOGA , followed by your message, to 888777.

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