The murder conviction of a local leader of the 59 Hoover gang, coupled with guilty pleas by seven other gang members to various offenses, have dealt a blow to an outfit seeking to control Columbia, Howard County officials said Tuesday.

After a three-week trial, a jury on Monday convicted gang leader Jeremi Lewis, 36, of Columbia of multiple charges including first-degree murder, first-degree assault and various gang activities, authorities said.

At a news conference, State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said seven other members of the gang operating in Columbia were previously convicted of crimes including gang involvement, drug dealing, gun offenses and assault.

“Howard County is a little safer now as we look to these cases being charged, successfully prosecuted,” Gibson said.

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A grand jury indicted the eight in March 2022. Authorities said that the gang, which originated in Los Angeles decades ago, had branched out into Howard County with the aim of controlling Columbia. With few gangs operating in the county, the 59 Hoover members saw it as a safe place to operate for a while, said Police Chief Gregory Der.

The eight members, who at the time of their indictments ranged in age from 20 to their mid-30s, came from the Baltimore area, including Columbia, Ellicott City and Baltimore City.

Gang members sought to control turf, tagging areas with their colors — orange and blue — and “just disturbing the public peace in every way possible.”

Howard County Police first made contact with the gang in 2011, Gibson said. That year, materials from the gang were found in the Howard County Detention Center, said County Executive Calvin Ball.

Two years later, documents that referenced 59 Hoover were discovered in a residential search warrant.

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59 Hoover gang leader Jeremi Lewis was convicted on Feb. 12, 2024 of first-degree murder and other charges. He faces a maximum possible sentence of life without parole at sentencing in May. (Photo courtesy of Howard County Government)

Lewis’ murder conviction stems from a 2021 fatal shooting in Columbia.

That year, Lewis shot 21-year-old Jaden Ealey, who died two weeks later from his injuries, county police said at the time. Ealey was found suffering from gunshot wounds behind an Exxon gas station. The killing was captured on surveillance video and Lewis was identified as a suspect.

“To the family of Jaden Ealey whose life was unjustly taken as a result of the defendant’s actions, there’s no way that we can adequately compensate them or make right the pain they feel and address their pain,” Gibson said. “But we hope that we can provide some sense of justice to the outcomes of these cases.”

Ealey was his mother’s pride and joy, she told the Banner’s media partner WJZ. She asked that WJZ not publish her name.

“Jaden was an aspiring rapper. He was very creative and fun, just a goofy kind of kid and he was very loved,” Ealey’s mother said. “Specifically in Howard County, he had all the support. He had the best support system.”

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Ealey loved football and played for four years at Oakland Mills High School.

“The loss of a child for any mother or father is the worst thing that could happen. The pain is unimaginable,” the victim’s mother said. “This guy, he may get a life sentence, but I’ve already gotten a life sentence. My family and I have to live with this. I have to live with this for the rest of my life knowing that I lost my son.”

Sentencing in Lewis’ case has been set for May 1. He faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 100 years, county officials said in a news release.

“This last case involving eight members of the 59 Hoover criminal gang has concluded with the conviction of its leader,” Ball said. “… We’ve taken a giant leap forward together in our progress to uphold public safety in our community by holding these violent criminals accountable for their actions, and our community is finally receiving some closure on these crimes.”

The seven other gang members pleaded guilty to various crimes during a two-year prosecution. They include assault, illegal possession of ammunition, conspiracy to commit robbery, gang involvement, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. They received sentences ranging from four years to 65 years in prison, authorities said.

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One remaining defendant, Anthony Jenkins, is to be sentenced this month after pleading guilty to gang involvement.

Der said that in late 2020, many, if not most, of the serious crimes that occurred in Howard County could be linked to 59 Hoover.

“Investigations of guns, drugs and violence kept leading to the same suspects,” Der said. “Detectives realized many of these offenders were linked to one another and repeatedly committing crimes in our community.”

59 Hoover gang leader Jeremi Lewis faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 100 years for charges including first-degree murder, February 12, 2024.
Howard County authorities say the 59 Hoover gang sought to control Columbia. Gang members indicted in 2022 have since been convicted of a range of offenses, county officials said in a news release on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Howard County Government)

Der said that while residents can’t ever completely relax because crime is an ever-present issue, law enforcement has taken a large step in reducing the gang’s involvement in Howard County.

He compared the conclusion of the eight gang members’ cases to the end of a relay race.

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“Everybody has to run their leg of the race including the community,” Der said. “In this one, we won the race. So when all the partners come together like we have here in Howard County, things get done. Criminals get held accountable.”

WJZ, a media partner of The Baltimore Banner, contributed to this report.

Abby Zimmardi is a reporter covering Howard County for The Baltimore Banner. Zimmardi earned her master’s degree from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism in December 2022.

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