Ghostface Gangsters tied to 90 mph U-Haul chases in Columbus

A botched burglary and two high-speed U-Haul chases led to the arrests of three men Columbus police say are members of the Ghostface Gangsters, a whites-only gang that began in the Cobb County jail nearly two decades ago.

Kevin Carver of Columbus, Kevin Brian Davis of Fortson and Brandon Barfield of Hamilton are Ghostface Gangsters, Columbus police Maj. J.D. Hawk said Friday afternoon.

“They are confirmed members of that gang,” Hawk said.

They were arrested in the past week and now face multiple charges ranging from aggravated assault on a police officer to theft.

Ghostface Gangsters have been operating in Georgia since 2000, and made news in March when federal and state agents arrested 23 leaders, members and associates of the gang in a 21-count indictment. The crimes alleged in the indictment include conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, carjacking, four counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, maiming, assault, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and firearms offenses.

Most of the men arrested in the federal case were from the Atlanta area, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The gang has since expanded outside the prison system, and its membership is now estimated in the thousands throughout Georgia, according to the feds. Members follow written gang literature, use violence to enforce gang rules, and facilitate the gang’s criminal activities from within prisons using contraband cellphones.

The Columbus connection surfaced with two burglaries at a storage business, followed by two high-speed U-Haul truck chases, launching an ongoing police investigation into an alleged theft ring netting three arrests with multiple charges.

The events grew clearer Friday morning when Detective Michael O’Keefe testified during a Columbus Recorder’s Court hearing for Davis, who faced drug and burglary charges. O’Keefe told the court Davis was a member of the Ghostface Gangsters.

This is the evidence O’Keefe outlined for the court:

On April 12, patrol was called to a break-in at The Storage Place, 4445 Warm Springs Road, where the manager reported two men identified as Carver and Davis had rented a unit about 30 feet from a storage room the business used for its equipment.

The two suspects were there in a Dodge Ram pickup when they noticed no padlock was on the door to the business’ storage room, so they backed their truck in, dropped the tailgate, loaded a leaf blower and other power tools, and left.

Later they returned and placed a sign where it would block a security camera, but they were recorded saying they’d come to get more loot. They were loading the Dodge again when the manager pulled in and blocked their pickup. Davis ran away, but Carver was arrested there, O’Keefe said.

The total value stolen from the storage business in that incident was around $1,300, O’Keefe said.

He said Carver identified Davis as his accomplice, and police discovered Davis was known for committing similar thefts.

In the pickup, police found a blue bag containing small, plastic bags of drugs, plus digital and manual scales. The combined total of the drugs came to .3 grams of heroin, 2.3 grams of meth, and 6.2 grams of cocaine, O’Keefe said. The drugs’ total street value topped $1,000.

Carver, who appeared to have been using heroin, picked Davis’ picture from a photo lineup, confirming the other suspect’s identity, the detective said.

On Sunday, police were called back to the storage business, this time by a trucker renting a unit there. The trucker said he’d come to unload collectibles when he saw two men loading a U-Haul truck. When the two saw him, they fled in the U-Haul, with some of their loot falling out on the ground. The trucker estimated they got about $1,500 worth of his goods.

Police later got a tip that Davis was driving the truck, O’Keefe said.

Patrol officers were told to be on the lookout for the truck, which had decals of a camel, a distinct emblem likely only on two U-Haul trucks in the whole country, the detective said.

Just before 1 a.m. Monday, the U-Haul was spotted on Second Avenue, Hawk said earlier this week. The truck, which police said Davis was driving, went north on Second Avenue and turned east on the J.R. Allen Parkway, with police in pursuit.

The truck rammed and disabled two patrol cars during the chase, police said.

The truck damaged the first police car at J.R. Allen Parkway and Schomburg Road about 1 a.m. At 2 a.m., police encountered the truck again, at J.R. Allen and Moon Road. The truck then rammed a second patrol car, and the driver got away, Hawk said.

Police started hunting for Davis.

O’Keefe told the court police knew Davis’ cellphone number, and began to trace it. Its signal pinged about 50 feet from a 30th Avenue address, where the resident told officers Davis had been there briefly about 3 or 4 a.m. and had said police were looking for him in reference to a U-Haul truck and a burglary.

When arrested at that residence about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Davis admitted being with Carver on April 12, but denied any involvement in the second burglary on Sunday, O’Keefe said.

With Davis in custody, police kept searching for the U-Haul truck, the detective said.

They found it about 11:25 p.m. Tuesday, with Barfield, 35, driving it in the North Highlands area at 42nd Street and Meritas Drive, Hawk said.

The driver hit the front of a patrol car. Despite being rammed, the officer was able to give chase, Hawk said. The suspects somehow had altered the U-Haul’s engine so the truck could reach speeds up to 90 mph, O’Keefe testified.

Neither Hawk nor O’Keefe gave the exact route the chase took, but it ended near Miller and Milgen roads.

“The driver made a maneuver that disabled the truck,” Hawk said.

Barfield tried to run away, crossing Miller Road, but officers caught him in the Old Town neighborhood.

Two Columbus police officers suffered minor injuries and were treated and released at Piedmont Medical Center, Hawk said.

Barfield was in Recorder’s Court Thursday morning, facing about a dozen charges. The most serious were two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon, interference with government property, and fleeing to elude law enforcement. Judge Julius Hunter bound the case over to Muscogee County Superior Court without bound.

Davis, 34, is being held in the Muscogee County Jail without bond on multiple charges, include three counts of aggravated assault on a police officer with a dangerous weapon and interference with government property. His case went to Muscogee County Superior Court.

Carver, 47, is facing burglary charges. He has posted bond and been released from the Muscogee County Jail.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams