Jamaica gang leader faces life in prison for 2019 drive-by shooting of rival in Springfield Gardens: Feds

Surveillance video captured Acevedo moments before he entered a white BMW sedan in South Jamaica, Queens. About 20 minutes later he gunned down his rival in Springfield Gardens. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York)

A Jamaica gang leader was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn for gunning down a rival during a drive-by shooting in front of a Springfield Gardens bodega in 2019.

Christopher “Essay” Acevedo, 28, the founder and leader of the Wood City gang, was found guilty of murder in aid of racketeering and faces life in prison following a three-week trial in Brooklyn federal court. The jury returned the guilty verdict after just 20 minutes of deliberation on May 8, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York

The evidence presented at trial established that since at least 2010, the Wood City gang, whose members lived around Woodhull Avenue in Jamaica, was engaged in racketeering activity, including murder, drug trafficking and various forms of fraud and identity theft.

Since at least 2011, the Wood City gang engaged in a turf war with its rival “Snow Gang,” another violent gang based in Queens, according to prosecutors. During this period, members of Wood City and Snow Gang would regularly taunt and insult each other using social media platforms and phone calls.

On Aug. 26, 2019, members of Snow Gang, including one of its leaders, David Hutchinson, robbed a gold “YTB” chain from a high-ranking member of Wood City while he was at a Hillside recording studio, prosecutors said. Shortly after the robbery, the Snow Gang leader posted a photo of himself wearing the YTB chain on social media. As a leader of Wood City, Acevedo was expected to retaliate for the chain-snatching to protect his gang’s reputation.

The defendant and other Wood City members drove to Snow Gang territory in a white BMW sedan and spotted a vehicle with the Snow Gang leader who had robbed the chain and other members and associates of Snow Gang. After following that vehicle to the front of Garden’s Deli, at 140-14 Springfield Blvd.

Security camera footage shows the BMW sedan, operated by Acevedo, as it pulled up next to the Dodge Charger with Hutchinson behind the wheel just before he was shot to death in Springfield Gardens. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York)

Acevedo pulled alongside the white Dodge Charger and fired a dozen shots, striking Hutchinson three times in his torso as he was behind the wheel of the car waiting for his associates to return from the bodega. Acevedo drove away from the crime scene. Officers from the 113th Precinct and EMS units responded to the shooting. Paramedics rushed Hutchinson to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

FBI agents and NYPD detectives worked the case in a joint investigation under the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program and linked Acevedo to the shooting through street camera footage near the crime scene and on 119th Avenue, near his home, in South Jamaica — where he was recorded entering a white BMW sedan, identical to the vehicle involved in the hit, about 20 minutes before it occurred. The FBI has also been actively investigating the Wood City gang and obtained further information through a cooperating witness and a confidential source within the group and the Bloods street gang.

“How senseless it was for Acevedo to callously take a human life to maintain and burnish his status as a leader of a violent street gang whose members felt insulted by the taking of a piece of jewelry,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “With today’s verdict, the defendant will spend the rest of his life in prison. Protecting our communities from gang and gun-related violence is a priority of my office and I commend the attorneys, Special Agents, and detectives whose work brought the defendant to justice.”

U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati presided over the jury trial. When sentenced, Acevedo faces a mandatory term of life imprisonment.