Crime & Courts

Gang member sentenced to 30 years in slayings

Jason Tisdale will spend 30 years in a federal prison for helping plan three killings for a sect of the Wichita Crips gang.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today that Tisdale pleaded guilty to helping the Neighborhood Crips kill three people in two shootings in 1998 and 2004.

Tisdale, now 31, was among 28 men arrested during a federal sweep in July 2007. All were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a law originally used to prosecute mobsters.

Testimony by Crips members and police investigators during the case has revealed the inner workings of a gang network in Wichita that has robbed teens of their childhood and left others dead.

"This has been the saddest five years of my life, learning about all this," said Val Wachtel, Tisdale's attorney.

"The victims and their families have suffered greatly. But those who were charged and their families have suffered greatly," Wachtel added. "The boys who were joining gangs when they were five years old have suffered. An entire community has suffered over this."

Tisdale had originally faced the death penalty.

But prosecutors allowed Tisdale to avoid capital punishment by pleading guilty in February to conspiracy to engage in racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten followed the plea agreement in his sentencing.

There is no parole from federal prison.

Tisdale's plea said that he joined the Neighborhood Crips in 1997 and helped plan a murder the following year, Grissom said.

Tisha Jones and Keith James were killed on Feb. 3, 1998.

Jones was under pressure from the Crips, Grissom said.

According to investigators:

The gang did not want her to testify that she had witnessed a member of the Crips commit a residential robbery the previous November, the plea said.

While in jail awaiting trial on the robbery charge, another Crips member, Edward Walker, called a house to find someone to keep Jones from testifying against him.

Tisdale, then 18, was one of the Crips in the house. He stole a car and drove others to Jones' house.

Police found Jones and James, her boyfriend, lying in the corner of a bedroom shot to death. An infant child in a crib in the same room was unharmed.

Seven years later, Aug. 5, 2004, Umanah Smith was shot and killed at 2531 N. Minnesota.

The previous night, Smith was part of the "Family Tyze," which was scheduled to appear at the Jungle Club. But the club closed following a fight between the Crips and the Lincoln Park Bloods.

Several members of the Bloods wound up at Smith's house where they had a party. When the party died down most of the visitors went home, leaving Smith and two other people in the house.

Meanwhile, Tisdale and other Crips had armed themselves and planned retaliation, he said in his plea.

About 3 a.m. Tisdale was shot in the foot by one of the other Crips on the front porch of Smiths house. Two others went in and killed Smith.

The bullet remained in Tisdale's foot until early 2006.

"The city needs to do something to work with the community to put an end to this," Wachtel said afterwards. "I'd be willing to work with the city in this regard."