CHICAGO
11/18/2010 02:58 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Police Bust Traveling Vice Lords Gang: Nearly 100 Arrested After Cop Murder

In August of 2008, an off-duty police officer was shot and killed in his SUV in Garfield Park. Robert Soto's companion, Kathryn Romberg, was sitting next to him; she was also killed in the shooting.

Officers arrested Jason Austin, a member of the Traveling Vice Lords gang, in connection with the shooting. But witnesses changed their statements, surveillance video proved inconclusive, and all charges against Austin were dropped.

Two years later, city and federal cops delivered a different brand of justice. Officers brought in almost 100 people associated with the Vice Lords after a sprawling investigation of the drug organization.

The case involved wiretaps, surveillance, and many informants, some of whom received up to $43,000 in cash for cooperating with the government.

Austin, known as J-Rock, was allegedly in charge of drug sales at "KO," the corner of Kedzie and Ohio Streets, just blocks away from the site of Soto's murder. After the murder, operations were moved because of increased police presence in the area. And when J-Rock was sent to state prison in 2009 on drug charges, Kevin Terry took over sales in that part of town.

He ran a 24-hour drug dealing operation that reportedly brought in between $3,000 and $6,000 a day -- making his area alone worth over $1 million a year.

Terry was also arrested, in November of last year, but authorities released him in in order to further pursue the investigation, according to the Sun-Times.

On Wednesday, they finally pulled the trigger, dropping an 89-page indictment and rounding up close to 100 suspects. Chicago police cooperated with FBI agents and deputy U.S. marshals in bringing the suspects in.

The Tribune gives more details on the organization:

Those brought in Wednesday held a variety of jobs within the drug operation, officials said. One of the women had been observed during the investigation selling dope while wearing a T-shirt that read "drug dealer," investigators said.

The operation allegedly moved a brand of heroin dubbed "Blue Magic'' that is so potent it drew customers from as far away as Elgin and Iowa to the West Side.

This is the second major gang bust in as many months in Chicago, both of them coming in response to murders. In October, police reported that they had arrested over 60 members of the Black Souls after finding them responsible for the death of 18-year-old Anthony Carter.

Police superintendent Jody Weis is enacting a strategy of harsh crackdowns on drug operations of gangs responsible for murders. And while the investigation of the Traveling Vice Lords, called "Operation Blue Knight," was under way well before this policy, yesterday's arrests certainly help convey the message to one of Chicago's largest and most powerful criminal organizations.