DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Connecticut

For Immediate Release

Monday, March 11, 2024
Vanessa Roberts Avery
, United States Attorney

Teen Admits Role in 2 New Haven Gang Shootings, Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charge

NYZAIRE BARNES, also known as “Melo,” 19, of New Haven, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden in New Haven to a racketeering offense stemming from his role in a violent New Haven street gang.

Today’s announcement was made by Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut; John P. Doyle, Jr., State’s Attorney for the New Haven Judicial District; James Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division; Robert Fuller, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England; and New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson.

According to court documents and statements made in court, in an effort to address violence in New Haven, the ATF, FBI, DEA and New Haven Police Department, working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office, have been investigating an ongoing gang war between members and associates of the Exit 8 street gang and rival gangs in the Hill section and other areas of the city.  The Exit 8 gang is named after the geographic area accessed by exiting Interstate 91 at Exit 8 in New Haven.  Recently, younger members of Exit 8 are identifying themselves with the word “Honcho,” which is derived from the street name of an Exit 8 member who was murdered on Quinnipiac Avenue in February 2020.

The investigation revealed that Barnes and other members of the Exit 8 gang engaged in drug trafficking, used and shared firearms, and, since June 2018, have committed at least three murders and 16 attempted murders.  Exit 8 members and associates also stole vehicles, at times from outside of the state, and used those stolen vehicles when committing acts of violence.  Gang members also promoted, coordinated, facilitated, and celebrated their narcotics distribution and acts of violence through text messaging and the use of social media applications and websites including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Barnes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity, and specifically admitted that he took part in two gang-related shootings.  On April 12, 2022, Barnes and other Exit 8 members shot and attempted to kill rival gang members.  On January 20, 2023, Exit 8 members, including Devin Suggs, stole an SUV in Scarsdale, New York.  Later that day, Barnes and Suggs committed a drive-by shooting of a rival gang member in New Haven.  The victim was shot in the head, but survived the attack.

At sentencing, which is not scheduled, Barnes faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.  Barnes has been detained since August 3, 2023.

Suggs pleaded guilty to the same charge on February 20, 2024, and awaits sentencing.

This investigation is being conducted by ATF, the FBI, the DEA, the New Haven Police Department, the Hamden Police Department, and the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tara E. Levens, Rahul Kale and Jocelyn C. Kaoutzanis.

This prosecution is a part of the Justice’s Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), Project Longevity and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) programs.

PSN is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Project Longevity is a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun violence in Connecticut’s major cities.  Through Project Longevity, community members and law enforcement directly engage with members of groups that are prone to commit violence and deliver a community message against violence, a law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence and an offer of help for those who want it.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.  Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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Boston Field Division