SALT LAKE CITY — A self-proclaimed member of the Kearns Town Bloods posted a video of himself on Snapchat pointing a Glock 19 9 mm handgun at a group of Provo cops from a house window last February.
Jonah Robinson, 19, said in the video that for "15 snapshots, I'll shoot every last one."
Someone saw the video and reported him to police. Robinson pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of child pornography. He faces up to 80 months in federal prison.
Law enforcers say gang-related violent crime, especially involving drug trafficking, is on the rise in Utah. And Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said children as young as 10 are carrying guns and committing crimes as part of a gang.
"We have to find a way to teach the young kids not get involved in gangs, and if you do, we will follow through with prosecution," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera.
Rivera and Brown joined Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber, FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart and Chief Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Wade Nakamura on Wednesday to talk about law enforcement's effort to combat violent crime.
"When a case lands on my prosecutors' desk, it's almost too late," Huber said, adding they'll try to help gang members change their lives, but "it's a very hard and complicate project."
Federal prosecutors in Utah have filed 54 gang-related indictments since March, Huber said. They have filed 163 cases involving violence through October 2017, a nearly 20 percent increase over the same time last year and 29 percent over 2015.
Drive-by shootings rose 185 percent from 2011 to 2016, Barnhart said, adding there were 94 last year and 88 so far this year. There also has been three gang-related murders in Salt Lake County this year.
Police have identified about 30 gangs in Salt Lake County, including a half-dozen that are homegrown, Brown said.
Younger and younger children are being lured into the gang life and being used by older members to commit crimes, knowing the punishment isn't as harsh if they're caught, Nakamura said.Comment on this story
Barnhart said he doesn't want Salt Lake City to become like other cities with multigenerational gang members.
"We have to turn the tide now," he said.
The federal and local agencies reiterated their commitment to work together to beat back violent crime. But leaders also called on residents to help them get to children before they join gangs.
"It's important that the community understand it's not going to take just law enforcement. It takes all of us to address this issue," Rivera said.