WEST MICHIGAN, Mich — An international manhunt stretching more than eight years for a pair of brothers wanted in connection to a highly publicized homicide investigation in Grand Rapids has ended.
Juan Enrique Reyes Santiago, and his brother, Eric Reyes Santiago, were arrested Monday morning by Mexican authorities near Guadalajara. The pair, documented gang members during their time in Michigan according to the FBI, had eluded authorities since a 2007 deadly shooting in Grand Rapids.
“September 30, 2007, a violent murder happened on the southwest side of Grand Rapids,” said FBI Special Agent and Violent Crimes Task Force Coordinator Adam Van Deuren. “Victim by the name of Ryan Pollok was shot in the chest after a gang shootout between members of rival gangs here in Grand Rapids. Ryan was attending a party and was an innocent bystander in this.”
Pollok was one of two people who were shot after gunfire erupted in the 700 block of Cutler Street SW. The other victim in the shooting suffered an arm injury and survived.
For years, federal investigators maintained the deadly shooting was tied to another shooting earlier the same evening near a gas station at Clyde Park Avenue and Burton Street in Wyoming. Several bullets hit the building in the initial shooting, but nobody was injured.
Federal investigators say the Reyes brothers were identified as suspects in the deadly shooting after several witnesses placed them at the scene of the crime. Shortly after, arrest warrants were issued for both of them.
“At the time, I was on the fugitive task force,” said FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent for Grand Rapids Sean Burns. “We actually executed search warrants, did a search at their residence a day or two after warrants were issued. They had already left the country. We received information shortly after that that they had left for Mexico.”
Despite a continued investigation in West Michigan and numerous media reports, including coverage nationally on America’s Most Wanted, the Reyes brothers avoided capture for several years.
“Once they arrived in Guadalajara, they had an extensive family network down there who helped them gain alias identities, residences, vehicles and jobs,” said Van Deuren. “They lived a normal, everyday lifestyle down there.”
The same extensive family network also extended to West Michigan for the brothers, according to investigators.
“There was a lot of communication going on between the family in Grand Rapids and down in Guadalajara,” said Van Deuren.
Cooperation from suspect family members was essentially non-existent during the investigation. In early 2015, the FBI Task Force announced a renewed push to find the brothers and get them into custody.
“In discussions with the case agents and task force members, we decided that more publicity on this would help,” said Burns. “We went forward with you guys and got this broadcast on West Michigan’s Most Wanted. Shortly after that broadcast we started receiving detailed information on the brothers’ whereabouts and other information on their whereabouts and who they were in contact with.”
“Silent Observer is our local partner that is absolutely helpful and 100 percent integral in breaking this case open,” said Van Deuren. “After our FOX17 spot on West Michigan’s Most Wanted back in February, Chris Cameron at Silent Observer started getting anonymous tips from an individual that was close to the family. We were then able to take those tips and do some investigations here in Grand Rapids as well as work with our partners down in Mexico to locate the two fugitives, Juan and Eric, and get them arrested.”
The Reyes brothers were arrested in a public area near Guadalajara, Mexico early Monday morning, but the pair weren’t taken into custody based on their warrants out of West Michigan.
“Juan and Eric were actually detained as illegal aliens down in Mexico,” said Van Deuren. “They were not arrested on their murder warrants in Mexico, they were detained by Mexican immigration officials then deported to Chicago where the FBI Fugitive Task Force then arrested them as they got off the plane.”
Local FBI Task Force agents arrived in Chicago to take custody of the brothers, who were then driven to West Michigan and booked into the Kent County Jail.
“This would not have been possible without the cooperation of not only law enforcement, federal law enforcement, state law enforcement, international law enforcement, but also the cooperation of local media,” said Burns. “Channel 17, Mlive, broadcasting and keeping the story alive, and Silent Observer who got these leads and documented them for us and kept forwarding these leads as they were getting them from local sources.”
“It definitely couldn’t have happened without the cooperation of the Grand Rapids Police Department, Wyoming Police Department, Silent Observer, Mexican immigration and Mexican police down in Guadalajara,” said Van Deuren. “It all had to come together just perfectly in order for this to happen the way it did.”
With the Reyes brothers awaiting prosecution in Kent County, the FBI says the Pollok family is one step closer towards receiving the justice they’ve waited for.
“I’ve talked with Ryan’s father, Doug Pollok, and have had extensive conversations with him,” said Van Deuren. “He’s pleased the investigation has culminated in the arrest of Juan and Eric. I’m happy that we had a positive result for the victim’s family, for Doug Pollok and for Ryan’s sister and for Ryan’s fiancée at the time. This just brings closure for them and now it’s time to prosecute them and get the prosecution effort complete.”
The Reyes brothers remain in custody at the Kent County Jail, awaiting prosecution.
We will bring you more on this case as it becomes available.