A jury on Wednesday sentenced a Tyler gang member to 45 years in prison on a drug charge involving “drug dealer amounts” of cocaine.
Damonte Deandre Shears, 33, has been in Smith County Jail since his April 2021 arrest on several drug charges along with a charge of evading arrest or detention. The jury found him guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, according to a statement from the Smith County District Attorney’s Office.
According to evidence presented in court, Shears “discarded a large amount of crack cocaine and ecstasy while running” from a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
According to the statement, detectives from the East Texas Anti-Gang unit said the quantity dropped by Shears was “consistent drug dealer amounts and not personal use.” The amount dropped had a street value of $10,000, the release said.
“Shears made his living selling poison and profited from the addiction of others,” Assistant District Attorney Emil Mikkelsen told the jury, according to the statement.
Gang expert Chris Miller with the Smith County District Attorney’s Office identified Shears as a ranking member of the Rolling 60s Neighborhood Crips using his tattoos, social media posts and Miller’s previous knowledge of Shears.
In a preliminary report released in July by the Tyler Police Department, statistics show drug violations were the leading non-violent crime in 2021. Compared to 940 drug crimes in 2020, that number increased by nearly 50% to 1,389 in 2021, according to the report.
Among the efforts by the police department to reduce crime is the creation of a priority response team, which targets areas where crime is usually high. It is also used to deal with narcotics-related crimes and gang activity, according to TPD Chief Jimmy Toler.