Wiretapped calls lead to four alleged gang members possibly facing the death penalty


Last month’s massive gang sweep of the West Side Crips criminal street gang in Bakersfield was prompted by the murder of five-year-old Kason Guyton. While no charges have yet been filed in the child’s homicide, investigators say another homicide *was* solved as a result of the multi agency investigation.

Police often say gang related homicides are hard to solve because it’s so hard to get people to talk. In this case, the suspects themselves did all the talking.

It happened in the early hours of September 23. According to police informants, quote “the entire hood” was there celebrating a West Side Crip’s birthday. The informant said more than 50 West Side Crips were in the parking lot outside Martini’s Bar and Regency Bowling Alley on Real Road when a group of East Side Crips, including 50-year-old Edwin Smith, approached the West Siders. An argument ensued and gunfire erupted.

Bullets flew in every direction-going into cars and the roadway inn on Chester Lane. Smith was killed and three others wounded. It appears no one-including the victims-would tell police anything or give any names.

But one of the suspects now in custody, Danny Willis, did more than enough talking. According to reports, through wiretapping Willis’s phone, police got the evidence they needed, as report say Willis implicated himself, Skylar Billings, Gary Pierson and Gary Clayton in the shooting. After police released a photo of one of the suspected shooters, Danny Willis was heard saying the man in the picture is Gary Pierson, and went onto say Pierson was so panicked he was contemplating suicide by cop.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the investigation are the calls where Willis talks about a family member of homicide victim Edwin Smith, who posted on Facebook claiming she knows who the shooters are. Numerous conversations show Willis was clearly concerned about what the poster knew. Coincidentally, the family member of the victim later told police she pretended to know who the shooters were on social media in an attempt to help gather information on the homicide. 

The four defendants charged with first degree murder could face the death penalty-as the murder charges have a special circumstance of participating in a criminal street gang.

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