One of their gang members was dead, shot to death by Brockton police, and other members of the Bloods street gang weren't happy.
So on a cold November day, Rodney "Bam" Gallaway, a reputed leader of the Bloods, gave a message to the three State Police troopers standing among a crowd of Bloods outside the run-down three-family homes on Green Street in Brockton: There's talk of retaliation against Brockton police.
With that, a task force's months-long probe into drug dealing on Green Street began to close a little earlier than planned.
Police, afraid to risk an officer's life, wrapped up their investigation against 12 men Dec. 18, making arrests and lodging federal and state drug and firearms charges, according to police and a police affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston.
The probe, which began in April, focused on the Green Street area, which had been plagued with open-air drug deals and violent shootings. Three loosely allied street gangs - the Green Street gang, the Bloods, and the North Side Stars - dominated in the area, and neighbors had been terrorized as these gangs clashed with rival gangs from across the city.
"The level of narcotic activity was brazen," said State Police Sergeant Steven Lopes. "The good people of the city deserve to have peace and security."
The task force - part of an investigation spearheaded by the State Police gang unit, Brockton police, and the FBI - made dozens of drug purchases through an undercover officer. The officer used a car equipped with two audio and video cameras, and police also used a surveillance camera mounted on a telephone pole.
While police said the arrests put a major dent in gang activity in the area, one of the suspected leaders of the gang was not included. Sandro Castro, whose house at 263 Green St. was the scene of a triple shooting last summer, was described in the affidavit as a "suspected Brockton Bloods leader."
During an interview in his home late last month, Castro denied he was a member of the Bloods or that he dealt drugs. He only wants to provide for his family, he said.
"I know the high beams were on me, but I didn't do anything wrong," Castro said. "I happened to get a lot more publicity with the killings and shootings."
The 39-year-old Castro said young people hanging out on the street looked up to him because he is older and a survivor. "A lot of little dudes look up to me and come to me for advice," said Castro. "I can relate to the young brothers. . . . I'm a dude who went through drugs and turned my life around."
In 2007, Castro was charged in Brockton District Court with assault with a deadly weapon and received a suspended sentence. In the 1990s, he faced charges in Lynn and Boston ranging from arson to possession of marijuana.
Castro has been laid up since the night of Aug. 24, when two people in a tan Cadillac traveling east on Green Street began shooting outside his home. Three men - Embassi Dosanjos, Daquawn Jones, and John Rodrigues - all suffered nonfatal wounds. Police believe the shooting was gang-related.
When the shooting started, Castro began to run - to protect a 7-year-old girl in the line of fire, he said - when he suffered leg injuries, including a ripped Achilles tendon. He thought he had been shot, hearing the "pop, pop" of tendons tearing. He has had two operations since, but his mobility is still limited, and he was interviewed in his bed.
He did say he knew some of the 12 who were arrested. "Good guys," he called them. "The dudes have a hard rap on them, but it's a bad rap."
According to police and court documents, much violence and drug dealing centered around 249 Green St., home of Placido Pereira, 22, an alleged member of the Green Street gang. Pereira, a Cape Verdean, was out of the country when the others were arrested and has not been apprehended. He reportedly has been shot before, including twice in the head.
"That was the mecca," George Almeida, a Brockton police detective, said of the house. Two men were shot in the driveway, one fatally, in 2006.
When the heat is on Pereira, he disappears, said Almeida, and "we experience a lull in the violence. When he comes back, the street blows up."
An affidavit filed as part of the cases, by Eric A. Telford of the State Police, provided a glimpse into gang activity in the city. The gangs cooperate with one another and have a total of 50 to 80 members, ranging in age from about 14 to 35, according to Telford.
The gangs are not tightly structured organizations, like the Mafia, where there are clearly defined roles. Instead, members earn respect through drug dealing, shooting, and murders.
Members earn most of their income through the sale of crack and other drugs, the affidavit said. The gang tightly controls the area around Green Street; outsiders who intrude are often met with violence. The gang has been involved in armed street robberies, commercial thefts, home invasions, ripoffs of rival drug dealers, and firearms-related offenses, according to police.
The Green Street gang has been around for at least five years. Members often wear something green.
Bloods are a local version of the national street gang, the affidavit said. Members wear red clothing or other items, such as hats, belt buckles, and beads. The gangs, or "sets" as they are known, are loosely organized. Police believe there has been some contact between the Brockton Bloods and other Bloods sets, but the amount of interaction is unclear.
The North Side Stars is a violent gang made up of mostly Cape Verdean males who have ties to the north side of the city. Some members of the North Side Stars have an "NS" tattoo and wear the emblem of the Houston Astros baseball team, which shows a star.
According to the affidavit, the chief rival of the Green Street gangs is the Owens Avenue gang, with about 30 to 40 members, from the south side of the city. Much violence has been tied to acts of retaliation on each side.
The recent probe accelerated after a member of the Bloods, John Earl Parks, 25, was spotted by Brockton police, allegedly selling drugs Nov. 5. Parks, who lived on Green Street, was confronted, pulled a gun, and attempted to shoot an officer, according to police. Police shot and killed Parks. Results of an investigation into his death by the State Police have not been released.
Those facing federal charges are: Pereira, John Goncalves, 22, and Jones, 18, for conspiracy to distribute crack; Dennis Afonso, 25, Gallaway, 29, and Dosanjos, 2, distribution of crack; and Johnny Richmond, 21, and Emmanuel Teixeira, 18, distribution of crack in a school zone.
Those facing state charges: William Hart, 36, distribution of crack in a school zone, subsequent offense; Angel Otero, 19, and David Stuart, 18, distribution of crack; and Edson Miranda, 29, possession with intent to distribute crack.
Attorneys for most of the defendants could not be reached for comment.
But George F. Gormley, Gallaway's attorney, said his client was not threatening police when he mentioned there was talk of retaliation following Parks's death. Rather, Gallaway was simply passing along information.
"No good deed goes unpunished," said Gormley.
Matt Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.