Atlanta journalist Mara Shalhoup writes the book and deep-dives into the circumstances that lead to BMFs creation and those that put their public leader behind bars. Below is an excerpt from the book.
For the past year, Burns, a member of the APDs organized crime unit, had been working undercover to infiltrate a white-collar crime ring. A purported luxury rental-car company called XQuisite Empire had been using the identities of straw borrowers to purchase BMWs, Jaguars and Range Rovers for suspected drug dealers. Two months before the Chaos killings, Burns got a major break in the XQuisite investigation. On the night of September 7, 2003, XQuisites owner, William Doc Marshall, called 911 to report that hed just shot and killed a home invader. When police arrived at the Midtown Atlanta townhouse, they found that it was outfitted with a peculiar feature. The home had a room-sized safe. If that wasnt strange enough, in a tight passageway flanking the safe there sat a single shoe and a lone kilo of cocaine.
Detectives figured that somebody had been in a big hurry to empty the contents of the safe such a hurry, in fact, that when his shoe slipped off he kept on running. The detectives also concluded that the home was a drug safehouse. At one point, they figured, the vault likely had sheltered a small fortune in cocaine. And the townhouse was probably targeted by burglars because the attackers knew theyd find drugs inside.
Detective Burns obtained a search warrant for the property, to see if he might find any records pertaining to XQuisite Empire and its owner, Doc Marshall. When he carried out the search, Burns found what he was looking for and more. The day after the burglary-gone-bad, Burns removed several boxes of documents that divulged intricate details of XQuisites inner workings, including the names and phone numbers of its employees, a list of cars that had been diverted from straw borrowers to suspected drug dealers, and ledgers that listed the colorful nicknames of the companys shadier clients.
Two months later, after stepping inside the White House (an extravagant drug spot), Detective Burns was surprised to find paperwork with strong similarities to the XQuisite files. In the White House, Burns discovered documentation for nineteen vehicles (including several limos) and applications for nearly as many cell phones. Many of the cars and phones were registered to the names and aliases of XQuisites employees. And the mysterious nicknames of XQuisites clients matched some of the nicknames jotted in the White Houses red, spiral-bound notebook: E, Country, Cuzo, Wetback. It appeared that XQuisite was funneling cars and phones to Meechs associates. Now that Burns had established the link between XQuisites owner, Doc Marshall, and the murder suspect Demetrius Big Meech Flenory, both his and Harveys investigations were going to get a lot more interesting.
Something else about the phone numbers listed in the White House paperwork: about a half-dozen of them had been in regular contact with numbers under wiretap surveillance in Detroit, where DEA agents were building a case against the Puritan Avenue Boys. That investigation was about to wrap up. Eight members of the Puritan Avenue Boys, including the crews leaders, Reginald Dancy and Damonne Brantley, were indicted on cocaine conspiracy charges three days after the White House search. Meech was not part of that investigation. But his apparent relationship with the PA Boys would help bolster the DEAs suspicion that Meech and his brother Terry were big-time cocaine traffickers.
Rounding out their search of the White House, investigators found a photo in the office that showed the Flenory brothers posing with the PA Boys kingpin Brantley in front of Atlantas hip-hop mega-venue, Club 112. Also in the office, investigators found an electric money-counter, several bags of rubber bands, and a stack of business cards with the name Terry Flenory and the company 404 Motorsports. One of the owners of the company, federal agents soon would learn, was Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklins son-in-law.
What investigators didnt find, however, was anything connecting Meech to the Chaos killings. Of the three guns pulled from the house the 9 mm, the .40 caliber and the .45 none tested positive for a match to any of the bullets or casings found in the clubs parking lot. The big-picture investigation, into the scope of Meechs suspected drug organization, was taking off. But the murder investigation was sputtering.
Two weeks after the White House search, Meech was granted bond an unusual move in a double homicide, especially one that had grown so sensational. In the wake of the shootings, well-heeled and well-organized Buckhead residents were angrily calling for a crackdown on the violence in their neighborhood. (“My question is, how many more body bags have to come out of this area,” one exasperated resident, Katy Bryant, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) The incident was so emotionally charged that, less than two months after it occurred, it was cited as the impetus for Atlanta City Council to roll back bar closing hours citywide.
Basically, the Chaos gun battle wasnt the type of crime the Fulton County D.A.s Office liked to leave unresolved. But the prosecutors were left with little choice. Their case against Meech was simply too thin. As it turns out, the seemingly strong lead the woman who spoke on the phone to the investigator fizzled out. She was quick to provide the name Meechie, but as for her own name she wouldnt say. She told police she was scared for her life. Even after she agreed to come down to APD headquarters and give a statement, investigators kept her identity a secret. Investigators didnt name her in any of the subsequent court hearings, either of which there were only a few.
No grand jury would indict a case without a murder weapon, a witness or a confession. Indeed, the case never made it to the grand jury. The most that could be concluded was that Meech acted in self-defense, if he acted at all. Meechs attorney claimed the charge was bullshit. Two armed men, one of whom had been tossed from the club, fired on Meech and his crew. Meech said he turned and ran a fact substantiated by his own bullet wound to the derriere. The injury was sufficient foundation for the defense his attorney would raise: that Meech, far from an aggressor, was in fact a victim.
To Big Meech and his crew, to residents of Buckhead, and to other concerned Atlantans, the Chaos investigation appeared to be a battle the police had lost. But while the murder case against Meech had fallen apart, the APD and DEA were able to take what they learned from the White House search and combine it with other information theyd already unearthed. Judging from the breadth of the evidence, investigators were able to see that they were onto something. It was something big. It was something organized. It was something called, formidably enough, the Black Mafia Family.