By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Four young Haverhill men charged with having a loaded gun in their car are likely members of a gang, the prosecutor in their case said.
At their arraignments yesterday in Haverhill District Court, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Patten said the men are “believed’’ to be gang members. Police said they arrested the men after discovering they had a .22-caliber handgun loaded with a 10-round clip in their car as they drove through Haverhill neighborhoods.
The arrest and comments from the prosecutor come as the patrolmen union says gang activity and violent crime is increasing in Haverhill, while Mayor James Fiorentini says statistics show crime is down.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said that on Thursday night, Patrolman James Cotreau and Detective Meaghan Buckley, members of the street crimes unit, were in the Acre area when they observed a 2003 Ford Explorer driving from street to street in a suspicious manner. Thompson said that after the officers observed the Explorer swerve over a double yellow line on Emerson Street, they stopped the vehicle as it entered Washington Square in the center of downtown.
He said the officers approached the vehicle and saw the four young men inside moving around in a suspicious manner.
“The officers asked them to stop moving, they did not comply, so they called for a backup unit,” Thompson said. “The occupants were then removed from the vehicle for the officers’ safety.”
He said the officers looked inside the vehicle and saw a handgun on the floor by the driver’s seat. The gun was identified as a .22-caliber with a 10-round clip. The men were all placed under arrest.
Thompson would not comment about any possible gang connection.
Charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and unlicensed possession of ammunition are: Stephen Devoe, 20, 38 Grove St., unit 1; Xavier Simms, 20, 62 Portland St., unit 406; Errol Ellis, 19, 25 10th Ave., unit 3; and McKenzie Weaver,18, of 4 Westminster Ave. They were arrested at 10:30 p.m. Thursday after police stopped their vehicle in front of 25 Washington Square.
Devoe, Simms and Ellis were held overnight without bail pending their arraignments yesterday, while Weaver was released Thursday night by a court clerk on a bail warning. Weaver appeared voluntarily at her arraignment according to the District Attorney’s Office.
At their arraignments in Haverhill District Court, the assistant district attorney requested Devoe be held on $30,000 cash bail. He asked that Ellis and Simms each be held on $10,000 cash bail.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Judge Stephen Abany ordered Devoe held on $5,000 cash bail, and released Ellis and Simms on personal recognizance. All four were issued a 60-day warning, meaning if they get into trouble with the law while their cases are pending, they could be ordered held for up to 60 days without bail. They must appear in court April 16 for a pretrial hearing.