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‘Reign of terror’: Ex-high school dean who led double life as leader of violent street gang convicted of murder in drug turf war, feds say

Israel Garcia (Photo from GoFundMe)

Israel Garcia (Photo from GoFundMe)

A former high school dean leading a double life as the leader of a violent street gang has been convicted of the gunshot murder of a rival in a drug turf war in the Bronx.

Israel “Shorty Rock” Garcia, 32, the former leader of the Get Money Gunnaz sect of the Young Gunnaz street gang, “GMG YGz,” was found guilty of the Oct. 11, 2010, murder of Alfonso “Joey” McClinton, 21, in aid of racketeering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release on Thursday. He faces life in prison.

Garcia was also convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, murder while engaged in a narcotics conspiracy, murder through the use of a firearm, possessing firearms in connection with narcotics trafficking, and attempted witness tampering.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Garcia led the gang’s “reign of terror over” a neighborhood, recruiting children and others into a drug trafficking enterprise that poisoned the community with crack cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl while protecting his drug turf with firearms and violence.

“Over time, Garcia attempted to create the façade of a law-abiding citizen, becoming the dean of a local high school in order to mask that he was still running the GMG YGz’s violence and drug trafficking,” Williams said.

In a statement announcing the charges against Garcia in February, Williams said, “As a former high school dean, Israel Garcia was trusted with guiding children towards a bright future, but we allege that Garcia himself was participating in the drug trafficking activity that a high school dean should be protecting his students from.”

McClinton’s killing came as part of back-and-forth shootings between GMG YGz and their rivals, officials said.

GMG YGz member, Joseph “Juice” Johnson, was arrested and prosecuted for the killing, but authorities said ballistics, video evidence, and eyewitness testimony revealed a second shooter — Garcia. When Garcia became concerned that Johnson might cooperate with law enforcement, he took steps to prevent Johnson from identifying him as the person also involved in the murder, prosecutors noted.

Johnson was convicted of second-degree murder, but the verdict against him was vacated on Feb. 3, 2022. Johnson subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving a 17-year sentence.

Garcia’s purported supporters set up an online fundraiser entitled “School Dean indicted for famous rap captions !!!” which was established to help him and his family, who, the site organizer said, had been “experiencing a massive injustice.”

Emails from Law&Crime on Friday to Garcia and his lawyers to verify the information on the site and seek additional comment were not immediately returned.

“For those of you who know me, thank you for the support and for those who do not I am still thankful to you for taking the time to read my story,” the message from Mr. Garcia said. “This is an extremely hard time for my family and me and the truth is I can’t do this alone. I need you guys more than ever right now. If you can’t donate any funds at the moment my only request is to please repost my story and show the world what we deal with everyday in our environment and keep me in your prayers. Please help me and shed light on what’s happening to our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters in our urban communities. Thank you all in advance and God bless you all. — Love Israel.”

Garcia, who grew up poor, had become a target of an “unbalanced law enforcement system” and was harassed and bullied by the police after being put on a New York City gang database as a kid growing up in the Bronx, according to the fundraising site.

The site said that Garcia, who had a passion for rap music, was targeted when he used rap lyrics on social media posts and captions from 2010-2021 “from famous and inspiring upcoming artists.”

The site said it was raising money to get him proper defense counsel after ineffective counsel from a previous lawyer, who “failed to introduce exonerating evidence and manipulated Mr. Garcia into signing a plea deal in fear of the infamous ‘trial penalty’ which incentivizes almost all defendants to plead guilty.”

It was unclear Friday from online court records when he was set to be sentenced.

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