Chicago PD and DEA Bust Warlord Who Ruled “Heroin Highway”

By Paul Gaita 06/18/14

The arrest of Kenneth Shoulder, a.k.a. Kenneth Shannon, revealed how widespread the city's drug problem extends.

chicago skyline.jpg

A joint task force of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies arrested more than two dozen suspected gang members who supplied and distributed heroin and crack cocaine to neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side.

Members of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Chicago Strike Force – a 70-member joint effort that unites agents from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals, and other federal agencies with Chicago police and prosecutors – captured 47-year-old Kenneth Shoulders, described by federal prosecutors as a high-ranking officer in the Conservative Vice Lords. The gang controlled the drug trade in a 12-block area located south of the Interstate 290 corridor known as the “Heroin Highway” because of its direct access to an array of stash houses and corners, where heroin buyers could pay in one location, pick up their drugs in another, and be back on the expressway in minutes.

In addition to Shoulders, the Strike Force arrested his sister, 49-year-old Sandra Shoulders; Shoulders' son, Kenneth Williams, 29, and 24 additional defendants, all of whom face federal and state charges ranging from conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin to transportation of narcotics. Eight handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle were also seized during the arrest, as well as approximately $140,000, nearly a half-kilogram of heroin and an unspecified amount of cocaine.

Prosecutors also stated that Shoulders’ operation was a collaborative effort between several gangs, including the Traveling Vice Lords, Black Souls Nations, Gangster Disciples, and others in an arrangement described by Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division, as “the new face of organized crime.”

“This is exactly the type of case we envisioned when we put together the Chicago Strike Force” Riley said. The arrests come during a period of intense gang violence in the city, which has seen numerous disputes often between rival factions. On June 12, a special education teacher was gunned down on the South Side when a gang member allegedly opened fire at a longtime rival.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.