Does Columbus have a gang problem?
Three Columbus suspects facing charges in a series of break-ins and armed robberies pleaded not guilty Thursday to gang related charges in Recorder’s Court.
Rashid Ricks faced two counts of armed robbery and participation in criminal gang activity, Montavious Ogletree had four counts of criminal gang activity charges and Victoria Thomas was charged with one count of criminal gang activity. Judge Julius Hunter denied a motion to dismiss the gang related charges and ordered each held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail. The charges were bound over to Muscogee Superior Court.
A certified gang investigator told the court the suspects are affiliated with the Zohannon gang, Gangster Disciples and the Crips. Police used video on the suspects and information from social media.
The gang-related charges are linked to a Sept. 25 investigation of two burglaries within minutes of one another at Zelmos, 3651 Weems Road, and the Chevron station, 4001 Miller Road.
Evidence from one break-in was recovered during an Oct. 27 search a 543 Third Ave. apartment where Thomas, 27, and Ricks, 31, were taken into custody. Police recovered about $3,000 worth of scratch off lottery tickets from Zelmos.
The investigator said Thomas and Ricks were interviewed by police. During the interviews, the investigator said there were several triggers mentioned that led to the criminal gang connection.
Thomas lived at the Third Avenue apartment. Proceeds from the burglaries were found at the location. The gang charge is related to association with members and allowing them to use the apartment.
Ogletree, 19, is a member of the Gangster Disciples or the Zohannon gang.
Thomas’ brother is still sought by police in an ongoing investigation, police said.
Ogletree entered the courtroom in a wheelchair. He crashed a vehicle while attempting to flee from police on Oct. 19. He was treated for serious injuries at an Atlanta hospital and later released to the jail.
The investigator said more charges are possible as the investigation continues.