Defendant linked to officer’s death has history of gang-related violence

By Joe Beck

WINCHESTER — A Front Royal man whom authorities have linked to the disappearance and death of a reserve police captain in Waynesboro appeared in Winchester Circuit Court on Friday for a probation revocation hearing.

Kweli Uhuru, 23, was returned to the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center after Circuit Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. scheduled Uhuru for another hearing at 9 a.m. June 24.

“There’s a lot going on with this defendant,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Derek Aston told Wetsel in asking that the case be continued.

Uhuru has been charged in Goochland County with gang participation in a criminal act and is scheduled to appear there in general district court on May 19.

Uhuru was known as Travis Leon Bell when he was sentenced in January 2008 to six years in prison and ordered to serve 10 years of supervised probation as a result of the shooting of a teen-age boy at an outdoor basketball court in Winchester. The victim was shot in the abdomen, according to court documents.

Wetsel suspended 17 years of the 23-year prison sentence he imposed on Bell, who was 17, at the time.

The 2008 sentencing followed Bell’s Alford plea of guilty to use of a firearm in commission of a felony; possession of a firearm while on school property; criminal street gang participation and malicious wounding. Under an Alford plea, a defendant refuses to admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for the prosecution to obtain a conviction.

Part of the plea agreement required Bell to admit to having been a member of the Bloods street gang.

Police searched a residence and seized a red bandanna, two white bandannas, pieces of notebook paper with “blood gang drawings and writings” and a spiral notebook with a “blood” alphabet, according to a search warrant document.

Bell has since changed his name to Kweli Uhuru. He was already in jail in Winchester on the alleged probation violation when the new gang participation charge was filed.

Uhuru is one of five defendants facing charges stemming from the murder of Waynesboro Police Reserve Capt. Kevin Quick.

Quick, 45, of Rockfish, was found dead in Goochland County on Feb. 6, five days after he was reported missing.

All five of the defendants in the Quick case have been charged with gang participation. Charges have been dropped against two other defendants. The FBI and Virginia State Police are continuing to investigate.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com