A coalition of Latino and black community leaders banded together on the steps of Compton City Hall on Monday, seeking to unite the city in the aftermath of an attack that law enforcement has labeled a hate crime.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said two Latino gang members terrorized a black family in an attempt to drive them out of the neighborhood.
The group of about a dozen leaders called for a dialogue between city officials, the sheriff’s office and residents to address problems that have arisen from shifting demographics in the city. Compton, once a largely black community, is now made up of about 65% Latino residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
“We will not let this incident define our community,” said Satra Zurita, a Compton Unified school board member. “We will work on the state, local and federal level to eradicate this behavior immediately.”
Shortly after a black family of five moved into a tract home around Christmas, reputed gang members started attacking, sheriff’s officials said. On New Year’s Eve, two allegedly hurled racial slurs at the family and their guests. One visitor was beaten with a metal pipe, according to authorities.
Crime as entertainment: What does that say about our culture and more importantly, our values?
Does crime ‘tourism’ lessen out sensitivities to problems that are real and disproportionately effect those less fortunate than ourselves?
What happens to a community and to families when kids see gang members and criminals idealized and made famous? Who is to blame when fortune are made off of what is the tragedy and suffering of others?
Will neighborhoods that are ignored and forgotten somehow benefit from this new found attention? Can that attention be turned into something positive that will serve the community?
HERE’S HOW TO TAKE A GANG TOUR: start at a bus parked outside a Silverlake building called The Dream Center, where grown adults cluster like kids on a field trip. Pay $65, and take your complimentary bottled water. Notice the church group from Missouri, 20-strong and blonde, and eye their grocery bag full of snacks. Notice the surprising number of Australians. They pace restlessly. One of them is named Tiny, but he isn’t. He appears to be here with his son, a teenager in baggy shorts and braces.
Alfred is the guide. He’s a marine turned gangbanger turned entrepreneur. He’s cracking Inner City Jokes. His phrase. We don’t need the windows open cuz we don’t do drive-bys. Also, we can’t have them open because the bus is air-conditioned. He’s hired three other guys to help lead the tour — ex-gang-members who had trouble finding other jobs with felonies on their records. They’ve turned their experiences into stories for travelers. They are curators and exhibits at once. When they’re not giving tours, they’re doing conflict mediation in the communities these tours put on display. The $65 will fund this work.
Your friend the screenwriter arrives. He compliments your tactful yellow dress — neither Crips blue nor Bloods red — and you remember elementary school field trips downtown. You and your fellow Westsiders were given careful instructions about gang hues. The Missouri group leader is a buzz-cut guy whom Alfred affectionately calls “Pastor.” Where’s Pastor? he says, when he’s talking about something Pastor might be interested in.
On board the bus, the jokes continue — In the event of an emergency, you’ll find bullet proof vests under your seats — but the scenery changes: Silverlake bungalows give way to the warehouses of downtown and the signage of a hybrid city — Papuserias and Pho shops, Spanglish enticements: Thrift Store Y Café. A hotline at 1-800-72-DADDY promises dads it can get them custody or at least visitation rights.
Flanked by a cadre of local law enforcement, including Boise, Caldwell, Meridian and Nampa police, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Tuesday afternoon that a federal grand jury has handed down indictments of 21 members of the Aryan Knights gang, a white supremacist gang operating in and out of Idaho prisons.
Law enforcement charged 12 current inmates in Idaho prisons, and arrested five more people this morning. Four more individuals remain at-large. The 21 are charged with distributing methamphetamine and possessing firearms.
“With these indictments and arrests, we have made the streets safer and weakened the operations of the Aryan Knights,” said Olson.
Olson told Citydesk that a significant number of members of the Aryan Knight gangs remain in Idaho prisons, but those convicted of the new charges will be sent out-of-state to serve additional time in federal prisons.
Chicago is in the grips of a deadly gang war. At least 275 people have been killed in the city so far this year and many more have been shot, many of them innocent bystanders to the gang violence. Among the latest victims were 12- and 13-year-old girls shot Tuesday night. They survived.
Sgt. Matt Little leads one of the teams in Chicago’s Gang Enforcement Unit. There are about 200 such officers in the city— versus 100,000 gang members.
“Almost all the violence we’re seeing now is from the gangs,” Little said. “When there’s a shooting we’ll respond to the shooting. We’ll figure out where we believe the most likely area for retaliation is and we’ll work that area trying to both prevent retaliation and possibly build a case on offenders.”
CBS News rode along with Little’s team as dusk fell on poor neighborhoods of vacant lots and high anxiety.
“The gangs have lost their hierarchy, so to speak, and without a chain of command, there’s really nobody keeping things in check,” Little said. The leaders are mostly in prison — or dead. Those left are young, reckless, and often terrible shots.
“Instead of a bullet with somebody’s name on it, we have a bullet that reads ‘To whom it may concern,’” Little said. The result is a spate of shootings that have killed or wounded young children, even toddlers.
Wave after wave of young men surged forward to take turns punching and kicking their victim.
The victim’s friend, a young woman, tried to pull him back into his car. Attackers came after her, pulling her hair, punching her head and causing a bloody scratch to the surface of her eye. She called 911. A recording told her all lines were busy. She called again. Busy. On her third try, she got through and, hysterical, could scream only their location.
Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton. Church and Brambleton.
It happened four blocks from where they work, here at The Virginian-Pilot.
Two weeks have passed since reporters Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami - friends to me and many others at the newspaper - were attacked on a Saturday night as they drove home from a show at the Attucks Theatre. They had stopped at a red light, in a crowd of at least 100 young people walking on the sidewalk. Rostami locked her car door. Someone threw a rock at her window. Forster got out to confront the rock-thrower, and that’s when the beating began.
Neither suffered grave injuries, but both were out of work for a week. Forster’s torso ached from blows to his ribs, and he retained a thumb-sized bump on his head. Rostami fears to be alone in her home. Forster wishes he’d stayed in the car.
Many stories that begin this way end much worse. Another colleague recently wrote about the final defendant to be sentenced in the beating death of 19-year-old James Robertson in East Ocean View five years ago. In that case, a swarm of gang members attacked Robertson and two friends. Robertson’s friends got away and called for help; police arrived to find Robertson’s stripped, swollen corpse.
Forster and Rostami’s story has not, until today, appeared in this paper. The responding officer coded the incident as a simple assault, despite their assertions that at least 30 people had participated in the attack. A reporter making routine checks of police reports would see “simple assault” and, if the names were unfamiliar, would be unlikely to write about it. In this case, editors hesitated to assign a story about their own employees. Would it seem like the paper treated its employees differently from other crime victims?
More questions loomed.
Forster and Rostami wondered if the officer who answered their call treated all crime victims the same way. When Rostami, who admits she was hysterical, tried to describe what had happened, she says the officer told her to shut up and get in the car. Both said the officer did not record any names of witnesses who stopped to help. Rostami said the officer told them the attackers were “probably juveniles anyway. What are we going to do? Find their parents and tell them?”
The officer pointed to public housing in the area and said large groups of teenagers look for trouble on the weekends. “It’s what they do,” he told Forster.
Could that be true? Could violent mobs of teens be so commonplace in Norfolk that police and victims have no recourse?
Police spokesman Chris Amos said officers often respond to reports of crowds fighting; sirens are usually enough to disperse the group. On that night, he said, a report of gunfire in a nearby neighborhood prompted the officer to decide getting Forster and Rostami off the street quickly made more sense than remaining at the intersection. The officer gave them his card and told them to call later to file a report.
The next day, Forster searched Twitter for mention of the attack.
One post chilled him.
“I feel for the white man who got beat up at the light,” wrote one person.
“I don’t,” wrote another, indicating laughter. “(do it for trayvon martin)”
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, died after being shot by a community watch captain with white and Hispanic parents, George Zimmerman, in Florida.
Forster and Rostami, both white, suffered a beating at the hands of a crowd of black teenagers.
Was either case racially motivated? Were Forster and Rostami beaten in some kind of warped, vigilante retribution for a killing 750 miles away, a person none of them knew? Was it just bombast? Is a beating funny, ever?
Here’s why their story is in the paper today. We cannot allow such callousness to continue unremarked, from the irrational, senseless teenagers who attacked two people just trying to go home, from the police officer whose conduct may have been typical but certainly seems cold, from the tweeting nitwits who think beating a man in Norfolk will change the death of Trayvon Martin.
How can we change it if we don’t know about it? How can we make it better if we look away?
Are we really no better than this?
Aficionados of the Etch a Sketch will recall a certain flaw in the toy: If you use it often, some of the lines drawn no longer disappear when you shake the device, leaving an indelible trace of where you have been. This is the problem Mitt Romney is encountering: He is trying to erase impressions left during this year’s primary contest, but he can’t shake away the image of Russell Pearce.
Pearce, the former Republican president of the Arizona Senate, is the author and self-described “driving force” behind that state’s law — endorsed by Romney — cracking down on illegal immigrants. Pearce told The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez this month that Romney’s “immigration policy is identical to mine,” and he told reporters this week that Romney “absolutely” gave him the impression that he saw the Arizona law as a national model.
Democrats, seeking to use this loose cannon against his own side, called Pearce to testify Tuesday before Congress on the eve of the Supreme Court’s review of the Arizona law. Republicans boycotted the hearing, sensing a political trap. But Pearce is less aware, and he handled himself in just the manner Democrats had hoped. Enhancing the effect, his tie bore the “Don’t Tread on Me” emblem of the Tea Party.
Pearce, who lost his seat last fall in a recall election, labeled the Obama administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “unpatriotic.” He sounded the alarm about an “invasion of illegal aliens we face today — convicted felons, drug cartels, gang members, human traffickers, even terrorists” (never mind that border security has improved and violence has lessened). And he blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on “the failure to enforce U.S. immigration laws” (omitting the fact that the hijackers entered the country legally).
Six Seattle-area men, some with prior felony convictions, were arrested over the last 24 hours on an indictment charging them with firearm trafficking as well as being felons in possession of firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The indictment is the result of an undercover investigation involving the Seattle Police Department Gang Unit; the FBI; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). In all, 25 guns were taken off the street, many of which were previously reported stolen. Andre M. Conerly, 25; Joshua Dawson, 20; James L. Henderson, 22; Daunte R. Williams, 29; and Alexander J. Olivio-Altheimer, 21, all of Seattle; and Djuan O. Gardner, 28, of Federal Way, Washington, will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 p.m. today.
“The defendants trafficked all kinds of firearms, including semi-automatic assault rifles, sawed-off shotguns, handguns, and even a silencer,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Convicted felons illegally selling this kind of firepower is a dangerous combination.”
“The detectives on this investigation worked tirelessly over months to build a case that resulted in the removal of dangerous weapons off our streets and the arrests of those responsible,” said Chief John Diaz, Seattle Police Department.
According to the indictment, the weapons were sold to a person working with law enforcement over a period of months in early 2012. The sales occurred in Renton, Washington. Five of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to unlawfully deal firearms and unlawfully dealing in firearms. Individually, four of the men are charged with being a felon in possession of firearms. Their prior felonies include:
Andre M. Conerly—three convictions for theft
Joshua Dawson—convictions for robbery and theft
James L. Henderson—two convictions for unlawful possession of firearm and theft of a firearm
Djuan O. Gardner—three controlled substances convictions, two unlawful possession of a firearm, and a forgery conviction.
Additionally, Alexander J. Olivio-Altheimer is charged with possession of an unregistered firearm for his possession of a sawed-off shotgun on January 31, 2012. Andre M. Conerly is additionally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm silencer for his possession of an unregistered rifle silencer on February 15, 2012.
“The first step was taking these deadly weapons off the street, and the next was arresting gang members who would wield them,” said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steven M. Dean. “The Seattle Safe Streets Task Force will repeat this successful formula as often as we need to because AK-47s and other assault rifles have no place in our community. Today’s arrests highlight that the law enforcement community is at its best when working together.”
“These arrests exemplify what can happen when dedicated law enforcement professionals work together to combat criminals and protect communities,” said Kelvin Crenshaw, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF, Seattle Field Division. “And to those that would illegally sell guns, fuel violent crime, and create fear on our streets, I suggest you sit-up and take notice—the safety and security of our communities is not negotiable. Not today, not tomorrow—not ever.”
If convicted, the men face up to 10 years in prison.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Santa Ana Police Detective Ramona Ruiz wasn’t always on the right path.
A former gang member and high school dropout, Ruiz at one time was a single mother on welfare struggling to flee an abusive relationship.
Miraculously, she turned her life around and joined law enforcement.
Today, 28 years later, Ruiz is the head detective on Santa Ana P.D.’s Graffiti Task Force. As a former gang member, she specializes in female gang culture.
Ruiz shared her story with more than 150 attendees Friday at the third annual Symposium on Street Gangs and School Safety at the Los Angeles County Office of Education headquarters in Downey.
The symposium, a one-day conference for school administrators, teachers and law enforcement, gives updates on gang issues and gang-related crimes facing schools across Southern California.
As the main speaker this year, Ruiz gave an overview of female gangs, which she said are growing at an alarming rate.
Ruiz said girls, sometimes as young as 9 years old, will join a gang for many reasons. They may be looking for safety, camaraderie and acceptance.
“Girls today are realizing they don’t need to depend on men to get what they want,” Ruiz said. “They can find protection and a sense of belonging in a gang with other girls.”
In Santa Ana, an estimated 5 percent of all known gang members are female, she said. Police have identified at least four all-female gangs, including a gang called the Hello Kitty Mafia because its members all wear Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
In one trend, gangs are starting to recruit new members on social media websites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. They’re also using those platforms to bully and intimidate people, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Kimberly Unland.
“It’s definitely a disturbing trend we’re seeing,” Unland said.
“That’s why we continue to work with schools and community groups to raise awareness. Education is key.”
Ruiz said teachers in the classroom can be a major component in the fight against gangs.
“Next to the parent, the teacher is the one who sees these kids the most. They can look for signs and problems and talk with the student,” she said. “It’s all about training and education. We need to work together as a team.”