San Diego, CA–The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office arraigned a Riverside County man on two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence, and assault with a firearm in connection with three gang motivated killings that occurred over the past five years.
Tahjee Ector, 23, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is scheduled for a bail review hearing on July 6, and a preliminary hearing on July 14 in San Diego court. If convicted, he faces life in state prison.
Last month, in connection with same gang motivated crime spree, the district attorney also charged Kenneth Brooks, 21, with two counts of murder, premeditated attempted murder, shooting into a residence and assault with a firearm.
The charges come as law enforcement officials are reporting a troubling increase in gang-related crime and the proliferation of ‘ghost guns’– firearms that are assembled by hand and are usually untraceable. According to the District Attorney’s Office, most of the criminal cases it files involving ghost guns are gang related. Since 2019, the DA’s Gangs Division has charged cases involving over 100 ghost guns. At the same time, gang-related cases submitted to the DA’s Office by law enforcement countywide are up 25% from the same time last year.
Prosecutors say that in May 2016, Ector went to Emerald Hills Park looking for rival gang members to shoot and kill. Believing he had located a rival, Ector shot and killed Kevin Spelmon, 46, as he worked on his car.
Four years later, in May 2020, Ector continued to kill on behalf of his gang. Ector and Brooks engaged in an ongoing conspiracy with other gang members, where they armed themselves with automatic handguns and again attempted to locate, shoot and kill rivals. Their mission culminated in the murder of an innocent victim, Arif Abdalla, 28.
Brooks went in search of rivals in Emerald Hills Park, in May 2021, this time, resulting in the murder of Tamara Shellum, another innocent victim.
The spike in gang-related crime and the widespread use of untraceable guns by gangs needs to be addressed through prevention and prosecution,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan. “We won’t allow gangs to terrorize any of our neighborhoods in San Diego County and we are dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to stem the alarming uptick in gang-related violence.”
Recently, the San Diego Police Department said it is on pace this year to nearly double the number of ghost guns they impounded last year. Of every five guns police seize, one is a ghost gun.
“Preventing and addressing gang-related crime and the use of ghost guns is a priority for the San Diego Police Department,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “I would like to thank our Homicide Unit, Gang Investigators, and Special Operations Unit for tirelessly working to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”
In addition, gang shootings are up 129% over the same period last year. In the first six months of 2021, there were 39 shootings compared with 17 last year, a 129% increase, three attempted murder cases compared to one last year, 34 assaults with a deadly weapon compared to 19 last year, and 9 drive-by shootings compared to two last year, according to data from the San Diego Police Department.
Brooks is scheduled to be in court on July 20 for a status hearing.