Feds link shootings, including fatal drive-by, to turf war between East Side gangs

Members of "Skinny Bloc Crew" accused of dealing crack cocaine

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - As they tried to keep accused members of an East Side gang behind bars, prosecutors laid out details of a violent feud involving several shootings over the past four-and-a-half months, including one that killed one member's son.

Prosecutors said several men indicted last week on drug charges are part of the Crips East Terrace Gangstas who call themselves the "Skinny Bloc Crew." In total, 10 men were indicted, and most are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine, along with an actual possession with intent to distribute charge.

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However, federal authorities also contend their group was in a turf war with another faction of the East Terrace Gangstas.

An FBI special agent testified Wednesday during a detention hearing for three of the men that along with some internal problems between them, the two groups were rivals over territory. It's a rivalry that involved several shootings, including one that killed the 4-year-old son, De-Earlvion Whitley, of one of the accused men, Earl Whitley Jr.

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The FBI special agent said another group of East Terrace Gangstas, led by Charles Bethany, who was charged in July in connection with De-Earlvion's shooting, sold drugs at several areas. One of them was at the Coliseum Meat Market on Spriggsdale Boulevard, which was a short distance from two lots on Ferris Avenue where the Skinny Bloc Crew is accused of selling crack.

On July 19, the FBI special agent said, members of the Skinny Bloc Crew drove by and shot at members of Bethany's gang outside the meat market.

Surveillance video later caught members of Bethany's crew loading up weapons and leaving in cars from a suspected stash house on J Street that night, shortly before De-Earlvion was killed in a drive-by at Whitley's home on Hub Avenue.

That shooting was one of two that night, the FBI special agent said. The other was on Corliss Avenue, where other members of Whitley's family were.

Bethany and several others have been indicted on weapons charges in connection to the shooting, but no one has been charged with the murder itself.

"Someone is in custody as a result of that investigation," the FBI special agent said when questioned about it by Whitley's lawyer on Wednesday.

The agent also linked another shooting to the rivalry - an Oct. 17 gun battle at the Palms Apartment complex that injured a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old. The FBI special agent said that incident was a retaliation shooting by the Skinny Bloc Crew.

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However, none of the 10 men indicted Friday face any federal charges related to that shooting or any other, nor have San Antonio Police made any arrests in either the Oct. 17 shooting or the July 19 shooting that killed De-Earlvion.

While all of the violence the FBI special agent mentioned specifically was from the past four-and-a-half months, the investigation itself began in early 2016, he said, due to an increase of drug and gang activity on the East Side, including a large number of gun-related deaths.

Cyntwanisha Whitley, the mother of De-Earlvion and wife of Earl Whitley Jr., said it is frustrating knowing the investigation had been going on that long.

"Clearly, if you seen that these group of guys was getting into it with these group of guys, why did you wait until this big tragedy happened for you know that you want to just blatantly just push the issue?" she said after the hearing.

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With the men linked to that kind of violence and most of them facing 10 years to life in prison if convicted, the prosecution is trying to keep them from being released before trial.

While a judge allowed for Whitley's release on bond Wednesday, he remains in custody for the moment, as prosecutors said they planned to contest it.

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