ROANOKE, Va. (WVIR) - One of the men on trial for a gang conspiracy, stemming from the murder of Waynesboro Police Reserve Captain Kevin Wayne Quick, is on the stand in Roanoke.

Defense attorneys began calling witnesses for the first time Thursday, and testimony primarily centered on the alleged ring leader of the 99 Goon Syndikate, Halisi Uhuru (aka Gert Wright).

Four suspects - Daniel Mathis, Shantai Shelton, Mersadies Shelton and Travis Bell (aka Kweli Uhuru) - are charged with kidnapping, murder, racketeering and robbery in connection to the 45-year-old officer's death.

Halisi Uhuru and Anthony Stokes are not charged in the murder, but are accused of being the gang's ring leaders in a racketeering conspiracy.

Both of Halisi Uhuru's parents testified before the defendant took the stand on his own behalf. The parents said Uhuru was hoping to get back on his feet after being released from prison on previous charges in December of 2013, about two months before Quick was abducted.

Quick was reported missing on Saturday, February 1, 2014. After a week of searching, crews found his body in Goochland County. Authorities say Quick was shot in the head.

The defendant introduced himself to jurors by saying, “I’m Halisi Uhuru. I'm here to prove my innocence."

Uhuru confirmed he was a member of the Bloods while in prison, saying he joined them for protection, but then disassociated with them towards the end of his sentence. Instead, he wanted to start an organization that did good things for the community.

"Instead of becoming a problem, I wanted to become a solution," Uhuru said. He says he wanted to transform gang mentality.

The defendant testified that he met Stokes and Bell while in prison, as they too were serving time on previous charges. Uhuru says he learned about the 99 Goon Syndikate from a friend in New York, and taught Bell and Stokes its message of doing right by the community. He testified that "Goon" stood for "Geniuses Of Our Nation." Uhuru and his parents told the court that he was in the process of getting some of his tattoos removed as well.

Uhuru claims Bell never told him anything about the robberies and home invasion around central Virginia that occurred the fall of 2013. He says he didn't authorize them, and that those weren't a part of the message he was hoping to spread.

Uhuru also said Bell is like a brother to him, but he had no idea about Quick’s murder. The defendant admitted on the stand that he knew Bell and some of the other members had been driving a stolen SUV.

It's then Uhuru testified that he tried to distance himself from the other suspects, and denied giving them any food or money, or helping them avoid police.

"I didn't even know they had anything to be hid for," Uhuru said.

Uhuru is expected to return to the witness stand Friday for additional cross examination from the prosecution.