FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jesse De La Cruz, a former gang leader and a convicted felon, was first initiated at 13 years old. He said he was a member of two street gangs and turned his life around in 1997 and earned a doctorate from California State University in 2014 on how gang members exert social control at their schools and communities.
The defense wants De La Cruz, now a renowned gang expert, to testify in the trials for the murder of Jahseh Onfroy, better known as rapper XXXTentacion, during an armed robbery on June 18, 2018, outside of the RIVA Motorsports, a seller of motorcycles and watercraft in Deerfield Beach.
“The gangs you have in Florida, that are like the Crips or the Bloods, are originally from California, so they have the same characteristics, the same nuances, as the ones over there,” De La Cruz said during a hearing on Tuesday.
Broward Assistant State Attorney Alixandra Buckelew objected to the witness. Mauricio Padilla, a defense attorney in the case, said the prosecution can’t just get rid of the defense’s expert witness because they don’t like what he is going to say.
Detectives arrested Trayvon Newsome, 24, Dedrick Williams, 26, Robert Allen, 26, and Michael Boatwright, 28, for the murder, but only Allen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is a witness in the case. The others are going to trial.
De La Cruz said there is a gang epidemic in the United States and it’s “not a secret” that Onfroy, 20, had been affected by it and referred to the online chatter citing a feud between Drake and XXXTentacion.
“He posted a Youtube, I believe it was that if he was killed, Drake would have been the one who did it,” De La Cruz said in court referring to XXXTentacion’s Instagram story.
“Allen, I looked at his IG post and he’s throwing the same signs, so that indicates to me that Drake is either a Blood or an associate of the Bloods,” De La Cruz said, also adding, “On a post with DJ Akademiks, he states that he is a shooter for Drake.”
De La Cruz said there was also evidence that The Migos, a hip-hop trio from Georgia connected to Drake, also had a confrontation with XXXTentacion.
Rapper Takeoff, one of the three Migos, died during a Nov. 1 shooting in Houston, Texas.
“All of these things lead me to believe that there are definitely gang connotations to this killing,” De La Cruz said.
During a testy exchange, Buckelew asked De La Cruz if he gathered all of the information from the web, and he answered in the affirmative while adding that he had sources who had confirmed the information.
Buckelew then asked, “So you know people through people who know something about a gang that existed?”
The pre-trial hearing is set to continue on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale ahead of jury selection.