Nearly 20 years after a hail of bullets came down on Whitney Houston’s cream-colored Mercedes-Benz outside of a Boston nightclub, law enforcement says they’ve finally taken care of the city’s biggest gang problem, The Columbia Point Dawgz.
For the Columbia Point Dawgz, music and violence seemed to go hand in hand—beginning with the brutal murder of the man who would have been Bobby Brown’s brother-in-law in Houston’s sedan, and concluding with a recent Boston rap battle that ended in an alleged kidnapping and possibly a shooting.
“It is one of—if not the—largest gang takedowns that we’ve seen in Boston,” Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, told reporters after the arrest. The group, he said, crossed borders into Texas, Florida, and Georgia.
This week, dozens of alleged Columbia Point Dawgz and their affiliates were dragged into a crowded magistrate’s room at Boston’s federal courthouse to be arraigned. In the last few days, the FBI indicted 48 people for crack, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and gun charges, and made 44 arrests. As of today, four individuals remain at large.
Boston may be famous for big-time mob stories, like Whitey Bulger and the North End’s Angiulo brothers. But, for the most part, Boston street gangs are localized to one housing project each, or limited to just a couple of streets.
The Columbia Point Dawgz broke that tradition. They expanded into other neighborhoods.
As the affidavit—and some locals—will tell you, this was not popular. The Point Dogs made a lot of rivals, most notoriously the Orchard Park gang.
And it was at the height of this expansion in the mid ’90s when Bobby Brown came back to visit his hometown.
Brown grew up in Orchard Park. Although the housing project has since been transformed into Orchard Gardens, the gang has retained its original name and remains a bitter rival of Columbia Point Dawgz, even to this day.
It was September 28, 1995 and Brown, a native Bostonian, was in town to see his family. His sister Carol was engaged to marry Steven Sealey. That night, Sealey and Brown went to visit a small local night club, the Biarritz Bar, near Orchard Park. Brown spent the night basking in the limelight and signing autographs.
Sealey, however, was a known Columbia Point Dawg.
A bald man jumped out and shot Seeley three times in the head and his chest, grabbed the chain from Sealy’s neck, and ran into the Orchard Park Projects.
“They got my boy!” Brown yelled, according to the New York Post.
John Tibbs was later convicted for the murder.
The Columbia Point Dawgz were spawned out of one of the most crime-ridden housing projects in the city, Columbia Point. By the ’70s, the project was so infested with crime that ambulances and firetrucks refused to go to the Point without a police escort.
By the late ’80s, the feds say, a gang called the Bomb Boys—sometimes known as the Detroit Boys—swooped in and started up a branch in Boston. This group would become the Columbia Point Dawgz.
According to the government, it was run by four families: Williams, Woods, Berry, and Funches. The feds say many of founding members’ descendants were swooped up in the massive bust this week.
By the early ’90s, the neighborhood was so overrun with crime that the city turned the area over to a private developer. The Columbia Point projects, as they were then known, were destroyed forever.
But that wasn’t the end of the Columbia Point Dawgz.
According to the affidavit, federal agents believe the Columbia Point Dawgz are still instigating dangerous feuds with Orchard Park—often in the form of rap videos.
The gang, according to the affidavit, conducted both its music business and its criminal enterprise at their studio, 8Bus. Raymond Scott, or “Benzino,” was often a recording guest there. Benzino went on to become the star of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, and rapper of the ’90s anthem “One in the Chamba.”
In the affidavit, FBI Agent Matthew Knight brought to light one of the more famous stories of recent Boston gang lore—on the record for the first time.
It all started in 2011 with the Waterboyz’ music video “1000 Bandz” featuring 2Chainz (not the famous 2Chainz; the artist later renamed himself Hunnit Bandz) and Tony Berry, one of the key defendants in the recent indictment.
In the video, the artists taunt, “We the only n***** getting money, real money that is.” They’re rapping on the corner of Warren and Zeigler street in Roxbury—or Orchard Park territory.
Needless to say, gang members from Orchard Park didn’t like the video.
Although Knight does not name the individual in question, calling him only “Kidnapping Victim 1,” he says a Columbia Point Dawgz gang member who appeared in the video was kidnapped by Orchard Park in response to the video.
The victim, according to the affidavit, was “located by police later that day in Chelsea. He had escaped a nearby basement apartment, appeared dazed, and had ligature marks on his wrists.”
A Boston law enforcement source familiar with the incident told The Daily Beast the Columbia Point Dawg did “not even know where he was.” The source asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak about the incident publicly. According to the affidavit, an Orchard Park gang leader was found shot in his car a few weeks later, presumably in retaliation.
The case is still open and charges have never been pressed.
Berry, who is one of the leaders of the Columbia Point Dawgz under the name Mazibrawl, was later arrested by federal agents in Atlanta.
Before his arrest he made a number of music videos—most famously the 2012 anthem, “Getting It,” a track frequently played on Boston hip-hop radio station Hot 87.7. “All I hear’s ‘the point’ every time a n***** smirk,” raps Berry.
In other videos, Berry reads court documents calling out supposed “rats.”
Benzino, who was allegedly shot by his nephew at his mother’s funeral in Boston last year, can be seen in some of the Waterboyz’s freestyle videos as well.
“I deal with lots of people in the music industry, and beyond that I will not make any further comment,’’ he told The Globe after the Columbia Point Dawgz arrest.
What may have done the Waterboyz in is their “Derrick Rose” mix. The anthem includes the line, “Feds taking pictures; Instagram me, bitch,” and the FBI clearly took it to heart.
The FBI included shots of Berry posing with his weapons from his Instagram as evidence in the affidavit.
Last summer, the Columbia Point Dawgz allegedly exchanged a volley of gunshots with their other rivals, the Greenwood Street Posse. None of the half-dozen incidents were fatal, but another alleged gang member was heard on the phone joking that they needed to teach gang members to shoot better.
The feds it seems, weren’t anxious to wait for the Columbia Point Dawgz to get target practice.
This week, supporters of the 44 arrested defendants crowded into the tiny magistrate courtroom to watch their loved ones plead not guilty.
Another woman blew Demetrius Williams a kiss, which he returned with a smile.
Other than attorneys, no one at the courthouse to support the alleged Columbia Point Dawgz would tell the Beast who they were there to see and why. At one point, a man in a linen suit riding the elevator laughed when asked for comment.
“Innocent! Innocent! Innocent!” chanted the woman next to him, pumping her hands in the air.
“It is huge, but how huge is always a question,” the Boston law enforcement official said about the arrest. “There will always be a new drug source, there will always be other gun sources.”
On the other hand, the official said, “In terms of actually having structure and organization, not many gangs have that kind of power and strength. I think the immediate is that it stops some current feuds almost dead in their tracks.”