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Sweeping Crackdown Targets Gang With SF Roots, Bay Area-Wide Reach and Deadly Rap Feuds

Written by Jonah Owen LambPublished Nov. 29, 2022 • 2:01pm
A San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy is pictured outside his patrol car on Sept. 13, 2010, in San Bruno. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

English

In a crackdown that swept the Bay Area, police toppled key players in a violent gang. 

The raids culminated a monthslong probe that led SFPD from a cache of weapons in East Palo Alto to a group that grew from San Francisco’s public housing projects into what authorities call one of the region’s fastest-growing criminal factions.

As Tre-4’s violence has expanded over the past decade, police gang enforcement in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities has stayed largely local. But the Nov. 16 crackdown that netted several arrests and a sizable haul of guns could signal a reckoning for the homegrown criminal faction.

With arrests spanning three counties, the multi-agency strike involved a level of coordination not often seen in local law enforcement. Though SFPD has worked with neighboring agencies on cases against Tre-4, law enforcement has seemingly struggled to keep pace as the gang outgrew police jurisdictions.

SFPD didn’t name the group when announcing the bust—a common convention for cops to avoid fueling criminal notoriety. But prosecutors and San Francisco’s police union have cast the suspects as foot soldiers and evangelists Tre-4. 

The past several years have seen the group increasingly mentioned in prosecutions against people accused of resorting to violence at Tre-4’s behest. The name also comes up more and more in rap feuds on social media, which seems to provoke violence and even murders, perpetuating cycles of retaliation.

The moniker might sound more familiar in its hometown of San Francisco, where police blame Tre-4 for killing a young relative of District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. SFPD ties the group to a litany of crimes across the bay, including shootings, robberies and a traffic-stopping Bay Bridge demonstration staged by Tre-4 to honor a fallen comrade.

The prolific violence, high-profile rap beefs and geographic advance certainly elevated the gang’s stature beyond San Francisco. All of which made it hard for police to ignore. 

“Right now, Tre-4 seems to be making all the noise throughout the Bay Area,” Daly City police spokesperson Brandon Scholes told The Standard.

Noisy enough for authorities to plot a takedown of some of Tre-4’s most vocal members, according to the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which said the operation earlier this month dethroned gang leaders responsible for shootings, armed robberies and car thefts.

Two of the suspects, Reno and Ramone Fiapoto, joined that Bay Bridge demonstration months ago to honor a fallen compatriot considered a brother, the SF police union said on Twitter without naming who died. His name: “Baby” Reno Fiapoto (not to be confused with his elder brother Reno), whose initials, BR, have since appeared on tribute necklaces worn by rappers in music videos involving Tre-4 members and their associates.

The public displays of mourning and anger show how many people have died for their chosen faction. 

The eight suspects caught up in the Nov. 16 raids illustrate how far Tre-4’s reach goes in the Bay Area, with hometowns claimed from Fairfield and Richmond to San Francisco and East Palo Alto. Nearly all were in their late teens or early 20s. 

Only Reno Goldie Fiapoto, 23, was charged with gang enhancements linked to alleged crimes commissioned for Tre-4. His court appearance and release on bail were amplified in a social media post on the Thizzler’s Instagram

Ramone Fiapoto, his brother, was booked on gun charges. 

From the Projects to Across the Bay

Tre-4 emerged from a group of mostly Samoans from the Sunnydale projects in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley. Rival gangs eventually forced the nascent coalition from its own neighborhood, police say.

Th old Sunnydale housing complex in San Francisco. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In 2009, the group began making a name for itself in San Francisco before outgrowing the city proper, according to Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin, who worked gang cases until a promotion in 2015 pulled him off the streets and out of touch with Tre-4’s trajectory. At the time, Chaplin says Tre-4 was considered San Francisco’s deadliest cohort, “the worst gang that I dealt with in the city.”

Tre-4’s rise has coincided with its name being increasingly invoked in the region’s most prominent trials—including two ongoing murder cases—that often note how the group is pushing its boundaries farther inland. With a footprint now spanning several counties, Tre-4 has outgrown SFPD’s ability to police it, becoming what San Mateo prosecutor Amelia Diedrich called “a multi-county entity”—one only recently met with a multi-county police response.

The group has also made headlines for allegations of a crime that claimed the life of a young man related to San Francisco’s most powerful law enforcement official. Authorities say Stevie Mitchell and Sincere Pomar murdered a cousin of San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’s spouse to avenge the 2020 slaying of Tre-4’s Baby Reno Fiapoto. 

Across the bay, Tre-4 affiliates were recently charged over a robbery on March 23 in Pleasant Hill that led to the killing of 20-year-old Lafayette resident Basel Jilani.

DA Brooke Jenkins speaks to the press at her office in San Francisco on Aug. 3, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Jilani’s death was one of many tragedies Tre-4 has left in its wake, Contra Costa County District Attorney spokesperson Ted Asregadoo said. He counts 10 alleged Tre-4 members in about four active prosecutions in the East Bay county.

Those are just a few of the mounting cases against suspected Tre-4 members, including a separate San Mateo County prosecution against ​​Amari Green and Ramone Fiapoto.

Much of the crime alleged in court is a running theme in rap videos and social media, too, police say.

“They’re one of the more violent gangs,” said Tracy McCray, president of San Francisco’s police union. “They have no shame. They’re posting their rap videos for anyone to see, taunting rivals.”

Someone McCray could be describing is Reno Goldie Fiapoto, a suspected Tre-4 member with a violent history, according to San Mateo County court records. 

Rapping under the monikers Greezy, TearItOffGreezy or 4EverGreezy, Fiapoto put a number of his own music videos on YouTube and appeared elsewhere on the platform, including in rap battles on a channel called Thizzler.

Fiapoto disputed the way another YouTube channel, Swamp Storiez, portrayed the Tre-4’s: “I wouldn’t say it’s true at all, capping on my name.”

Still, while he raps about illicit activity, he’s denied any gang involvement. 

“It ain’t no gang shit. Everybody I be with my cousin—my little cousin,” Fiapoto said in an interview with The Innovators YouTube channel. “It’s not even n— we grown up with. It’s all my cousins. It ain’t even a gang. They be trying to make it seem like we a gang. We ain’t a gang.”

But when the interviewer asked whether people should pick sides in the rivalry “politics” between San Francisco gang Double Rock and Tre-4, Fiapoto changed his tune. 

“Pick your side and stay there,” he replied. “There is no middle to this shit.”

English

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]


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