Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, where Joseph Carroll Jr. is set to enter a plea in January. Photo: Emilie Raguso

A man previously described by authorities as a “ringleader” in West Berkeley’s Waterfront gang has been charged with two Oakland murders dating back to 2009, as well as an attempted murder.

Joseph Carroll Jr., 31, was charged last week with the fatal shooting of Nguyen Ngo in April 2009, and the attempted murder of Ngo’s brother. Carroll has been in local custody since October, when the Alameda County district attorney’s office charged him with the fatal shooting in 2011 of Andrew Henderson Jr. The recent Ngo charges have not been reported elsewhere.

Nguyen Ngo and Henderson both appeared on an FBI flier circulated by authorities this fall as part of a campaign to ask the public to “help with identifying the suspects responsible for several homicides in the west side of Oakland and Richmond, California” from 2005 to 2011. Authorities previously tied Carroll to a 2005 double homicide on the same FBI alert, though charges never appear to have been filed in that case.

According to a lengthy 2010 declaration from an OPD gang expert, the 2009 Ngo homicide “rekindled” a “violent feud” between Oakland and Berkeley gangs, and led to the retribution killing of Carroll’s cousin, Charles Davis, later that year. The other victim in the new case, Henderson, was an associate of Oakland gang members involved in that same long-running dispute with Berkeley, according to the declaration. That document is not part of the current court case, but it details the dynamics authorities believed drove cross-border gang conflicts through 2009. The bulk of it is focused on Oakland, but some Berkeley figures make repeat appearances.

The Oakland Police Department previously identified homicide victim Nguyen Ngo, and his brother Bao Ngo, as documented North Side Oakland gang members. And OPD said in the comprehensive 2010 statement by department gang expert Officer John Cunnie that Ngo’s killing was gang related. Bao was injured in the same shooting, and Carroll has been charged with his attempted murder, according to court papers reviewed by Berkeleyside on Thursday. To date, Carroll has been charged with seven felonies in the case: two murders, attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle, assault with a firearm and two counts of firearm possession. He is set to enter a plea Jan. 19.

“In the weeks and months after Ngo’s homicide, there were several gang related shootings and homicides in both north Oakland and Berkeley gang territory,” Cunnie wrote. It was part of a feud dating back to 2002 that started as “a personal dispute possibly over one person stealing another person’s rims off of their vehicle.”

The longstanding conflict included gunfire on numerous occasions. There was the 2006 slaying in Oakland of a North Side Oakland gang member. The expert said Oakland gang members thought Berkeley gang members were responsible. Seven months later, in February 2007, Carroll’s cousin Jermaine Davis — identified in court papers as another member of Berkeley’s Waterfront gang — was arrested in connection with a shooting near the Oakland border that involved a vehicle registered to a North Side Oakland gang member. (Jermaine, the younger brother of Charles Davis, was later shot to death in Berkeley too. Jermaine’s killing in 2013 sparked the wave of violence that led to the high-profile Oakland murder of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, in which Joe Carroll Jr. was for a time implicated.)

The gang expert wrote that, in July 2007, Carroll was in a car with a woman when unknown suspects in North Side Oakland territory shot at them and caused them to crash. The 21-year-old woman was killed. No further context was provided. Cunnie identified Carroll as a “Berkeley gang member” and said he was arrested in 2009 “during a gang related Oakland homicide investigation.”

According to Cunnie, Nguyen Ngo was fatally shot April 23, 2009, in the 800 block of 45th Street, near Market Street. The intersection at that time was “claimed … for street controlled substance sales activity,” he wrote, by a “clique” called “ASAP” that was part of the North Side Oakland gang.

“The gunman shot at the Ngo’s [sic] from a moving vehicle, then fled north on Market Street, toward Berkeley. At the hospital where Ngo was taken, police saw a number of ASAP clique members,” he wrote. Cunnie noted that, again, members of North Side Oakland believed the killer was a Berkeley gang member.

According to the declaration, Ngo’s homicide ultimately prompted what Cunnie believed to be the revenge killing of Charles Davis — cousin to Carroll and older brother of Jermaine — in Berkeley in May 2009. Charles, 25, was fatally shot by a documented North Side Oakland gang member at 10th Street and Allston Way.

The killers later crashed, while fleeing from police, resulting in the deaths of an uninvolved pedestrian and a motorist. Cunnie wrote that property and photographs connected to the Ngos were found in the vehicle from the Davis murder.

Police in recent court papers have shared much less detailed accounts, and wrote only, in a Dec. 5 document related to Carroll’s arrest, that Ngo was “shot to death in a drive-by shooting” at 45th and Market. OPD wrote that multiple witnesses have said Carroll was the person responsible.

The OPD statement about the Henderson killing, on April 13, 2011, was similarly vague: “Multiple witnesses identified Carroll as the individual who shot and killed Andrew Henderson in the city of Oakland,” police wrote Oct. 19, the same date Carroll was arrested in the case.

According to the Bay Area News Group, Carroll was arrested in October “as he was about to be released from Federal Correctional Institute Lompoc in Southern California where he had been serving a 2015 federal gun conviction term.”

The only reference to Henderson in the Cunnie document notes that he was arrested in 2007 after a Grand Avenue restaurant burglary along with North Side Oakland gang member Stephon Anthony, who was later convicted in the Charles Davis homicide, and two other men.

One of those men, identified by Cunnie as gang member Raphael Duarte, was the registered owner of the vehicle from the 2007 drive-by shooting focused on Jermaine Davis. (Duarte later was convicted of shooting a 50-year-old man twice in the back in 2007, killing him. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to media reports.)

Police have previously described Joseph Carroll Jr. and his younger brother Coleon as “ringleaders” in West Berkeley’s Waterfront gang, so named because many of its members live near the Bay and have been linked to numerous violent crimes. In July 2009, the brothers were arrested along with a third man as part of a sweep of five Bay Area cities in a coordinated crackdown on gang violence in the East Bay. The resulting gun possession case against Joseph Carroll Jr. was later dismissed. A robbery charge against him that same year also was dismissed, according to records online.

In 2013, Carroll was, at first, implicated in the murder of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, which sent another young man linked to West Berkeley to death row last year. The DA’s office eventually dismissed all charges against Carroll in that case “in the interest of justice.” But he never was released: At the time of the dismissal, Carroll was immediately charged as part of a 2013 conspiracy to kill Oakland rivals said to have disrespected him, his brother Coleon and their cousin Jermaine Davis on social media sites. Carroll was sent to prison on a lesser charge as part of a plea deal in that case, according to court records online.

During court hearings for the 2013 conspiracy case, authorities said Carroll, who had been staying in Texas, had orchestrated a plan to kill a man he believed had been disrespectful to him and his brother in a rap video on YouTube, and in comments and photos on Instagram related to Jermaine Davis. Carroll pled to a lesser conspiracy charge and was sentenced to four years in state prison.

Coleon Carroll, right, with his cousins Jermaine and Charles Davis, both of whom have been killed in fatal shootings. Photo: Coleon Carroll/FB

The Alameda County district attorney’s office lists just one prior conviction for Carroll in the court papers related to his current case: for felony evasion of an officer with willful disregard for safety. County court records online reveal that the Dec. 15, 2006, case initially also involved charges of shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a semiautomatic firearm.

Carroll was sentenced to two years in prison after a plea deal in that case, and his co-defendant, Emando Roos, was sentenced to five, according to county records online. Roos, who grew up on Russell Street in Berkeley according to his Facebook page, would later be Carroll’s co-defendant again in the Oakland murder plot case in 2014.

And Roos and Carroll had been linked by police in 2005 to two of the other homicides that are part of the FBI campaign to solve old cases: the fatal shooting of Sean McClelland and LaCorey Brooks on June 27, 2005, on Ripley Avenue in Richmond.

According to a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle story, the men were found dead in a crashed vehicle that had been “bombarded with gunfire” from at least three firearms. McClelland was 26 and Brooks was 22. Both had been shot repeatedly. The Chronicle called the double homicide a revenge killing for a homicide near the Berkeley-Oakland border two days prior, and said police had identified the six alleged gang members who were responsible.

“Police say three of the suspects fired shots, one drove the car, and the two others conspired to kill and possibly supplied the weapons. Four of the men are on parole and would also be charged with parole violations,” according to the 2005 Chronicle report.

When that story came out, police had already arrested three men, including then-26-year-old Roos, in connection with the case. The Chronicle noted that three others, including Joseph Carroll Jr., then 18, were wanted too. There is no indication online that charges ever were filed in that case.

Carroll remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail where he is being held without bail. He has hired private defense attorney Ernesto Castillo to represent him in the current matter. It’s not their first case together, however. Castillo represented Carroll in 2013 during the Alaysha Carradine case, and again in the conspiracy case.

Carroll’s brother Coleon, now 28, is serving a 13-year prison sentence for a 2010 murder in Berkeley where he admitted he was the getaway driver. He took a plea deal last year, then tried to pin that murder on Jermaine Davis, after Davis’s death, to help his co-defendant in the case. In the end, the judge was not convinced.

The FBI has put out a $20,000 reward in connection with the recently promoted cold case homicides, and has also listed one other victim in its campaign. Nehemiah Lewis, 24, was fatally shot June 11, 2010, in the 800 block of Athens Avenue in West Oakland.

Tips regarding all five cold case deaths can be submitted to OPD or to the FBI. Anonymous tips are also an option.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...