Indicted MTA conductor said infant’s death made his job harder: DA

An MTA subway conductor who was busted for smuggling firearms into Brooklyn — helping fuel this year’s spike in gun violence — callously griped that the shooting death of a 1-year-old tot was making his job harder, authorities alleged Thursday.

“N—-s were beefing with some n—-s that ran down on them and they didn’t know there was a 1-year-old baby in the park and they shot, they shot, they tried to run down on the n—a and the baby was out there and the baby got hit in the stomach,” MTA employee Vernal Douglas, 49, alleged said in a wiretapped phone call with an unnamed buyer July 21.

“S–t been crazy since then.”

A few days before the call, 22-month-old Davell Gardner was fatally gunned down in a drive-by at a cookout in a Bedford-Stuyvesant park.

Douglas, of Flatlands, was charged as part of a gun-trafficking ring that smuggling firearms into Brooklyn from the South — alongside Montoun Hart, 49, of Brownsville, Christopher Hodges, 31, of Walterboro, South Carolina, and Ira Jones, 42, of South Boston, Virginia, authorities announced.

“They’re putting their profit above human life and your life,” said Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez at a press conference Wednesday flanked by NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison and standing in front of dozens of illegal guns displayed on a table — including an assault rifle. “They know these guns will be used to commit crimes and they simply don’t care.”

Acting on a tip, undercover agents initially launched a probe of Hart in October 2019, with undercover agents allegedly purchasing 44 firearms from him Hart and learning the identities of his three suppliers — including Douglas, authorities said.

The suppliers operated independently, but smuggled their weapons through the so-called Iron Pipeline — the southern states where 70 percent of guns used in the city’s violent crimes originate, according to Gonzalez.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric GonzalezZoom/confrerence

Douglas frequently traveled to South Carolina and brought guns back himself or had his associates ship them to him in the mail, according to Brooklyn prosecutors.

He worked his day job while shamelessly engaging in the illegal side hustle, authorities alleged. On April 9, he texted Hart a selfie in which he was wearing his blue work shirt and a surgical mask. “bacc @ it…” he wrote, indicating it was his first day on the job since the COVID-19 shutdown, officials said.

In another recording from Aug. 31., Douglas was allegedly heard asking a buyer if he knows anyone who could purchase guns for him. “Young n—-s who like 21 who would go up in there and report them stolen, give em a little change for going and get the s–t?” Douglas allegedly asked.

Douglas, who was held on $750,000 bail and Hart, who was held without bail, pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in Brooklyn Supreme Court to multiple counts of criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, conspiracy and other raps.

Jones is awaiting extradition from Virginia while Hodges is still in the wind. Hodges allegedly transported guns to New York via a Chinatown bus company, officials said.

The busts come amid a spike in New York City shootings, which have nearly doubled this year compared to the same time period in 2019, with 1,331 shootings as of Monday compared to 685 last year.

More than 1,600 people across the Five Boroughs have been the victims of gun violence as of Monday — compared to just over 800 last year for the same period.

MTA Spokesman Tim Minton said Thursday that Douglas, who was hired in 2017, is no longer in active service.

“The MTA has zero-tolerance for conduct that facilitates crimes of violence,” Minton said.

Additional reporting by David Meyer and Craig McCarthy