FBI working with local authorities targeting Orange County gang violence

Operation nets 75 arrests, takes 50 guns off the streets

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – After more than 200 shootings this year, including a 3-year-old boy who was gunned down in his home, federal authorities are working with Orange County law enforcement agencies on a targeted gang violence operation.

FBI, Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Orlando Police Department leaders held a news conference Friday encouraging the public to step up and speak out specifically in regards to the shooting deaths of 14-year-old Dennis Joshua Atkinson and 3-year-old Daquane James Felix Jr. There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to their killers.

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“Please call Crimeline we know there are members out there in our community who can help us solve these cases, and we are pleading once again for them to come forward and take those murders off the street,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said.

OPD Deputy Chief Jose Velez said there have been more than 100 gang-related arrests this year.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this, a community involvement is a must,” Velez said, adding the youth programs are key to building relationships. More information about those programs can email youthconnect@orlando.gov.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Ron Hopper said the FBI Safe Streets Task Force initiative is working with local authorities specifically targeting two gangs in the greater Orlando area known as the 438 and the Army. Each group is roughly around 50 members plus associates, a member of the task force gang unit said.

“While the FBI typically doesn’t telegraph our moves,” Hopper said, both gangs “have our attention now.”

[RELATED: Orange County deputies make 75 arrests in gang-related violence]

The primary motive of the gangs are burglaries targeting gun stores, cars and businesses. Some members are involved in drug sales but it’s not “a huge push," said Lt. Paul Wilkerson with the OCSO violent crimes unit.

Hopper said the FBI became involved due to “the level of violence" in the Orange County community happening in broad daylight with law enforcement in close range.

During an operation with the FBI, OPD and OCSO more than 75 arrests have been made and 50 guns out of the hands of gang members, Mina said, adding that more than 900 guns have been taken off the streets in Orange County this year.

The most recent arrest of, 19-year-old Joshua Holder, was in connection to a shooting at the Mall at Millenia on Oct. 8. One other suspect was arrested and another is at large, all three are documented members of a street gang called 438.

The sheriff said many of the guns seized were stolen, including a high-power rifle that can shoot rounds through walls and go through body armor that law enforcement wears.

“One of the ways they’re getting these firearms is, you know, people get lazy and leave their firearms in their cars, and many of those firearms are stolen from being unsecured and vehicles,” Mina said, pleading with residents to lock their vehicles and safely store firearms.

The goal, said Mina, is getting as many gang members off the streets to make Orange County a safer community.

Hopper said gang members and their associates can look forward to “lengthy meaningful federal prison sentences" and “we intend to significantly disrupt and ultimately dismantle both criminal organizations.”