Eight men have been arrested following a multi-year investigation into a feud between two groups that resulted in a string of shootings, including at a high school party, and two murders in Palm Beach County, the Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.
Most of the men are 20 years old, but the shootings began when they were teens, some of them still in high school. The group is believed to be affiliated with a prevalent South Florida gang known as ZMF.
“This is the first round,” Sheriff Ric Bradshaw warned at a news conference announcing the arrests. “Don’t think for a minute there won’t be any more rounds, because there will be.”
The eight arrested are: Ennis Veillard, 20; Harry Mason, 20; Tylor Gaynus, 21; Marquan McGraw, 20; Jadon James, 20; Jamaine Sampson, 20; Bobby Cooper, 20; and Andre Jean, 25.
Seven of the eight are charged with attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder with a firearm; Cooper is charged with only conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit began the investigation in May 2021, when two BMWs arrived at a “Senior Skip Day” party with over 200 attendees, most of them high school students. Multiple men in balaclavas jumped out and began shooting at the crowd.
But the origins of the feud date back to at least 2019.
Detectives believe the men were targeting a former high school classmate. The men had “problems” with the classmate throughout high school, according to the affidavit, but the feud took a turn in January 2019, when a friend and family member of theirs, Moltere Charles, 17, known as “Mo,” was murdered in a shooting at Lake Belvedere Estates Park.
The eight men believe that their target, the classmate, is responsible for his death, according to the affidavit. In the years following, they unleashed a string of retaliatory shootings and attempted murders.
That classmate was murdered west of West Palm Beach on June 11, 2021. His name is redacted in the affidavit, though a flyer handed out at the news conference states that Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers is seeking information about the unsolved homicide of Kenneth Bowles on June 11, 2021.
Detectives still do not have a suspect in the murder, though police believe the eight men arrested were all involved.
Members of the group had tried to kill him prior to May 2021, according to the affidavit. In 2020, PBSO investigated a shooting at an apartment complex in which a man arrived at the first-floor apartment belonging to the classmate and shot into it several times, hitting an 18-year-old man, whose name is redacted, twice in the leg.
The 18-year-old told detectives at the time that he was on Facetime with his girlfriend when he was shot. Because his name is redacted, it is unclear if he was the target or someone else who lived at the home.
The mother of the intended target later identified the shooter as Jean, and said that she believed he and his group were trying to kill her and her son that night, but he wasn’t there. He usually sleeps in the room that was shot at.
Jean and Veillard are cousins of Charles. The two and McGraw are all suspects in the 2020 shooting. Looking at pictures and videos saved on their phones and posted on social media, as well as text messages, detectives found that the three had discussed the shooting and the guns used, which matched up with the casings found there, according to the affidavit.
“Let’s go pop up to the hospital,” a text from McGraw said the day of the shooting, apparently aware that the victim of the shooting had been taken there.
“Thursday,” Veillard responded.
After the shooting, Veillard posted a picture of himself next to multiple guns for a song called “make da news,” featuring Jean.
In May 2021, the mother of a high school student rented a pavilion by the beach at Ocean Reef Park for her daughter’s Senior Skip Day party, according to the affidavit. The party, originally meant to have 100 attendees, soon got out of hand, devolving into chaos when a group of men in all black, wearing ski masks, arrived in multiple BMWs, witnesses said, and began shooting at another group of men. Those men shot back.
Detectives searched multiple cars associated with the shooting at the party. Inside one of the BMWs, they found Veillard’s phone, on which he had recorded multiple videos of himself, holding and shooting guns connected to the shooting at the party. In James’ car, they found a Glock, sandals and a Palm Beach Lakes High School laptop.
Again, over Instagram messages, members of the group of eight had discussed plans for the shooting ahead of time and afterward, according to the affidavit, knowing that the target would be there.
They talked about the car he would be driving, a beige Toyota Camry. The Camry was registered to him at the time of his death in June 2021.
Videos apparently recorded for a rap music video days before the June 2021 murder of the victim show Gaynus holding a rifle next to McGraw, who waves a black handgun at the camera. Veillard and Jean are also there. After the June 2021 murder, Gaynus released a song where he raps about shootings and a recent homicide, according to the affidavit, which he talked about releasing on the day of the target’s funeral.
Pulling together prior criminal cases, DNA evidence, gun casings, location data from cell phone numbers and text messages, detectives concluded that the eight men conspired to kill him.
At Thursday’s news conference, Chief Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams, who oversees the organized crime unit, said that “this is one of the best investigations I’ve ever seen in my 26 years as a prosecutor.”
Still, while detectives have arrested all eight on conspiracy to commit murder, they do not yet have enough evidence to prove who actually killed the victim in June.
“We have an idea, obviously,” said Maj. Talal Masri. But, he added, “we need more information from the public.”