DALLAS — It is tranquil now, but there was a time when walking onto Life Avenue in West Dallas could get you shot.
Dallas police Sgt. Sheldon Smith worked the area for years.
"They were very dangerous," Smith said. "They had the community at bay."
He's talking about the infamous Gator Boyz gang, led by brothers Tyrone and Patrick Weatherall.
The gang owned about 30 drug homes throughout West Dallas that authorities said were purchased with money from drug trafficking. They also drove expensive cars, and had exotic animals.
Prosecutors said gang members used to walk an alligator on a leash through the neighborhood.
In one house, they kept a female Bengal tiger, which was later found dead on Interstate 35. She had been shot five times.
They were drug dealers who ruled by intimidation.
“Just their presence alone — the drug sales they would do — made people not want to come out of their homes to enjoy the streets," Smith said.
The brothers were arrested in 2010, and still, people are afraid to talk. Neighbors refused to speak on the record to the media.
But now, some hope is emerging from that fear.
The government seized all 30 of the Weatherall's drug homes, and is now donating four of them to Habitat for Humanity.
“What was once a nuisance is now going to be a real benefit for the community," said Habitat executive Kirsten Shultz.
On Tuesday, workers will knock the homes down to build new ones.
"We sincerely believe that dedicated homeowners is really one of the best ways to revitalize communities," Shultz said.
So here on Life Avenue, life is getting better.