Roanoke drug traffickers plead guilty in fatal Eastern Avenue gunfight

Court graphic.
Court graphic.(KTVF)
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 1:31 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Two more Roanoke men involved in a fatal shooting at an Eastern Avenue drug house in Roanoke City pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday for their roles in the shootings and related drug trafficking activity, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia.

23-year-old Chad Custer and 28-year-old Aaron Woods each pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, as well as one count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Custer and Woods each face a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

24-year-old Darion Harvey previously pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to 26 years in federal prison.

“The rise in violent crime we have seen in the Western District of Virginia must be met by an all-hands-on-deck approach to law enforcement. Local, state, and federal agencies are working together to bring to justice those individuals who act with brazen disregard for human life,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said. “In this gun battle, a young man lost his life, and three others will be changed forever. Violence is never a solution, and those who choose to engage in violence will be held accountable.”

Court documents say in October 2018, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began investigating a drug trafficking ring organization that involved Woods, Custer and Harvey.

Authorities say during the investigation, they learned Woods, Harvey, Custer and other co-conspirators used Woods’ apartment on Eastern Avenue as the primary site for their large-scale distribution of marijuana in the Roanoke Valley from late 2017 through around August 2019. Witnesses told police customers would stream in and out of the apartment at all hours of the day and night buying marijuana from the defendants, who kept their loaded guns in plain view.

In the early evening hours of July 10, 2018, a car with five people inside arrived at the Eastern Avenue apartment where a gunfight broke out with Harvey, Woods, and Custer on one side and the newly-arrived people on the other. While four people ran off, a fifth person was in a vehicle driving from the scene when a bullet struck him in the back of the head, killing him.

Investigators recovered firearms they say were used by Woods, Harvey, and Custer during the shootout, including high-powered, military-style rifles with laser sights as well as multiple handguns and ammunition.