Duo that tried to kill Cleveland priest were teen gang members, prosecutors say

March 13, 2018 GMT

Duo that tried to kill Cleveland priest were teen gang members, prosecutors say

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The teenage duo who tried to kill a Cleveland priest during an ambush-style robbery are gang members, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The two 16-year-old boys are members of the MBK gang that stands for My Brother’s Keepers, a subset of a juvenile street gang, according to testimony Tuesday in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

A 15-year-old girl who pleaded guilty in connection with the case and two Cleveland police detectives testified during Tuesday’s hearing that the two teens belonged to the gang that operates on Lakeshore Boulevard near East 150th Street.


The two 16-year-old boys are charged with attempted murder and aggravated robbery in connection with the Dec. 11 incident in which they chased down and shot at Rev. John Kumse, the pastor of St. Mary’s of the Assumption in Collinwood. Kumse has been the pastor there for 30 years and is well-known for his work in the community.

Kumse was not hit by gunfire but tore his rotator cuff after falling as he ran from the shooters.

The testimony on Tuesday came as prosecutors convinced Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Ryan to transfer duo’s cases to adult court, where they face far harsher penalties if convicted.

Their cases will now go to a Cuyahoga County grand jury that will decide how the case will proceed.

A then-14-year-old boy who prosecutors said acted as the getaway driver had his case set for a hearing on May 4 during which Ryan will decide if he is amenable to rehabilitation through the juvenile court system. An 18-year-old woman, Kenitra Robinson, is charged with attempted murder. She pleaded not guilty in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

She, the 15-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy were inside of the getaway car, a stolen van, at the time of the incident and remained with the group after the shooting, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors on Tuesday did not seek to establish a motive for the robbery and shooting during the five-hour hearing. But Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Yasmine Hasan questioned the 15-year-old girl regarding the structure of the MBK gang.

She testified that the gang members used hand signs, including making an “M” with their their fingers. She also testified that MBK had various ranks, including foot soldiers.

She testified that if a gang member with a higher rank tells a lower-ranking member to rob or shoot someone, then the lower-ranking members must comply. She said that is the only way to move up in rank.


“If they tell you to rob someone, you rob someone,” she said.

The two gunman saw Kumse walking out of his chicken coup behind the church, prosecutors said. They hid behind bushes as Kumse walked back towards the church carrying four eggs, according to prosecutors.

The duo demanded the eggs. One of the gunman fired three shots as Kumse ran for his life, according to prosecutors and Kumse’s testimony. One of the bullets nearly hit the other armed robber.

Kumse fell to the ground in the church parking lot as the two men were less than 10 feet away. He testified Tuesday that he thought he was going to die.

“I thought ‘this is how it ends,’” Kumse testified.

One of the robbers slipped as he fired a third shot from about 10 feet away. When Kumse realized he wasn’t shot, he got up, continued running and yelled for help, according to police.

The robbers ran away when a neighbor came outside and turned on a porch light. The robbers got into a stolen van, which was parked in the corner of the church’s parking lot, and sped away, the police report says.

The teens were arrested the next day, and investigators found the van on East 150th Street near Lakeshore Boulevard, police said. Det. Kevin Warnack testified Tuesday that police found two guns inside a home where the 15-year-old girl lived, including a revolver believed to be used to fire the shots at Kumse.

Warnack said two of the teens mumbled “MBK” to each other as officers led from the house in handcuffs. Warnack said at the time police did not know what that meant, but later learned it is the name of their gang.

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