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Gang member responsible for 2015 murder sentenced to 20 years in prison

A member of a “violent criminal enterprise based in Riverhead,” who was partly responsible for a 2015 murder, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to racketeering in February.

Terrill Latney, an associate of the “Red Stone Gorilla” subset of the Bloods, was sentenced in federal court in Central Islip by United States District Judge Joanna Seybert.

He had also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute narcotics and participating in the murder of Thomas Lacolla, in what was a botched attempt to kill a rival gang member.

“With today’s sentence, justice has been served for years of drug dealing, violence and murder, which wreaked havoc in Riverhead and the surrounding area,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme in a statement. “This outcome brings a measure of closure to the victims and stands for the principle that we remain ever-committed to dismantling violent street gangs on Long Island and restoring safety and the rule of law to every community.”

In the guilty plea, Mr. Latney, 40, of Mastic Beach admitted to distributing large quantities of crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin in the Riverhead area for nearly a decade. On Nov. 17, 2015, Mr. Latney assisted members of the Bloods when they tried to kill a rival gang member, but instead killed Mr. Lacolla. More than 39 shots were fired into a vehicle that Mr. Lacolla sat in while parked in Riverside.

Police on scene of the 2015 murder.

In October 2019, federal officials announced six arrests of alleged Bloods gang members following an investigation by the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force. Mr. Latney was listed as a leader of the gang along with Jimmy Dean of Calverton. Mr. Dean allegedly ordered the killing in 2015, officials previously said.

Officials said the investigation was part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a “program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.” The Department of Justice “reinvigorated” the program in 2017.

In an Oct. 1 letter to the judge, Mr. DuCharme requested a sentence of 30 years, and described Mr. Latney as a “career criminal.” He was facing a maximum sentence of life in prison. He had previously been convicted for a felony sale of crack cocaine in 2016. He was also convicted of felony weapons possession in 2008 when he was found with a .45-caliber pistol.

“The defendant has no history of regular or verifiable employment,” the U.S. attorney wrote. “The reason for this is clear, Latney works as a drug dealer. That has been his profession for the last 20 years.”

Mr. Latney’s role in the gang elevated after Mr. Dean was arrested in 2016, Mr. DuCharme wrote. He became a source of narcotics supply to younger members of the gang while also engaging in street level sales himself. In March 2018, the FBI conducted five controlled purchases of crack cocaine from Mr. Latney for a total of about $3,000.

The court filing describes how Mr. Lacolla came to be killed. In early 2015, Mr. Dean began to have issues with a rival gang member, listed in the letter as John Doe #2. Mr. Dean made the man a “worldwide plate,” which meant that the Stones gang members should attack him and possibly kill him on sight. A shooting occurred in July 2015 when a Stones gang member fired a 9mm handgun and struck the man in the leg. On Nov. 15, 2015, the rival gang member opened fire on the Stones gang members in a parked vehicle as retaliation. No one was struck during the shooting and it was not reported to law enforcement at the time.

Two days later, Mr. Latney and three other Stones members met to to plan the murder of John Doe #2. They left the meeting to go find the man, bringing a total of three firearms, one of which was an AR-15 style assault rifle.

When they found the vehicle, they saw a man in the driver’s seat, but failed to realize it was not their intended target, but a friend of the John Doe #2: Mr. Lacolla.

The U.S. attorney noted that the remorse Mr. Latney showed in court appeared to be driven by his “sense of loss of time with his family. However, this should be balanced against the fact that the defendant and his coconspirators permanently deprived Thomas Lacolla and his family of those things.”