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James Atwood

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URBANA — James Atwood, an alleged leader of the Latin Kings in Kankakee, was sentenced to 17½ years in prison on federal drug charges in U.S. District Court last Friday.

In July, the 33-year-old Atwood pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug transaction.

After his release, Atwood will serve six years on parole.

He faced a sentence up to 30 years in prison on the charges.

The Kankakee Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force arrested Atwood; Jovan S. Saulsberry, of Bourbonnais; and Jesse J. Dorsett Jr., of Kankakee, along with three other gang members on June 14, 2016.

Agents netted 22 firearms and 3 ounces of cocaine during the course of the investigation, which began in 2014.

The other three gang members arrested — Jesse Guardiola, Heather Grad and Santos Salgado — all pleaded guilty and started serving prison terms in 2017.

Drive-by shooting case

Atwood was scheduled to be in Kankakee County court today for charges stemming from a drive-by shooting in Kankakee on Jan. 14, 2015.

Atwood has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied building, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a street gang member.

Saulsberry and Dorsett both are charged with attempted murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied building and reckless discharge of a firearm. Saulsberry’s next court date is May 22. Dorsett is back in court on June 7

The trio opened fire on a house in the 1800 block of East Duane Boulevard. The house next to the targeted home also was hit by gunfire. Two bullets were found in a room where two children were playing when the shooting occurred.

The case was the result of ongoing investigations related to gun violence in the Kankakee area by the Kankakee Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force.

The task force includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and investigators with the Kankakee Police Department working in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Central District of Illinois and the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office.

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