Gangfighters Weblog

July 29, 2007

After Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine Left Dying on Tampa Street

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 8:04 pm

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS & MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
St. Petersburg Times – Published Sunday, July 29, 2007
TAMPA – Just after the first bomb exploded in the Iraq war, Miguel Angel Suarez enlisted in the Marines.

His parents and five siblings warned him of the dangers abroad, but Suarez said he wanted to repay this country for the better life his family found after moving here from Mexico City when he was7 years old. It was March 2003, and this new war was his chance.

He survived tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. When his four-year enlistment was up this year, he signed up again. This time, he would work from a safer base in Tampa.

The insurgents never got him. But early July 21, Suarez was gunned down and left to die a mile and a half from his childhood home.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies say a 21-year-old gang member killed the Marine in a botched robbery attempt.

Jonathan Sanabria of 18425 Bittern Ave. saw Suarez, 25, walking home from a concert near the corner of North Himes and West Sligh avenues, deputies said.

In the ensuing scuffle, Sanabria pistol-whipped Suarez, shot him twice and left him lying in the street, deputies said.

They arrested Sanabria, described by deputies as a member of the Gangster Disciples gang of Chicago, Tuesday evening on a first-degree murder charge.

Sanabria, in jail without bail, told detectives it all happened because he wanted Suarez’s gold chain.

“El Toro”

Pedro Suarez sat outside his West Tampa home Wednesday afternoon, cloaked head to toe in his little brother’s full camouflage uniform, still wondering how anyone could kill Miguel.

This was the man who traveled to Mexico twice a year to surprise his 81-year-old grandmother with mariachis and flowers.

The Marine who stayed quiet about the dangers in Afghanistan and Iraq to keep his mother from worrying.

Miguel Suarez had been the baby of the family.

But in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, everyone knew him as “El Toro.”

He spoke in double entendre, making jokes that slid by most. Sgt. Jimmy Ray Sumaya always laughed.

“Finally,” Suarez told him when they met. “Someone who knows what I’m talking about.”

They became quick friends, and Sumaya encouraged him to re-enlist this year.

Suarez did and told his brothers he wanted to make the Marines a lifelong career.

a strange mood

The night he died, Suarez went to a Colombian Independence Day concert with a childhood friend, Janeth Valderrama.

In their tight-knit group, Suarez played the role of “the Fonz,” she said. He razzed his friends, hassled waiters and never let himself – or his pals – make excuses.

“You wouldn’t get the comfort; you’d get the truth,” Valderrama said. In situations where some might offer consolation, he made people face reality: “Yeah, it was your fault.”

Still, Suarez’s friends trusted him not to judge or lecture them, said Liliana Villavicencio. He played pranks on them but was there when they needed him.

And despite his irreverence, he knew when to focus. Before exams at Jefferson High School, his normal goofing off gave way to diligent studying, Villavicencio said.

Suarez started out his usual self Friday night. Valderrama picked him up at the house he had just bought in Riverview. They drove to the concert at the Hindu Temple of Florida on Lynn Road. Suarez had a few drinks and danced with his friends.

But by 2 a.m. his mood had changed.

“He was really drunk and seemed really bored,” Valderrama said. “I don’t know exactly why.”

She left him for a moment to check on her sister. When she returned, Suarez was gone.

When the concert ended at 3 a.m., Valderrama waited outside to see if her friend would emerge.

She called him on her cell phone, and after a long wait he called her back.

He apologized for his behavior and told her how much her friendship meant to him. But he also said he wanted to be alone, and told her to go home.

She could tell he was in a strange mood because he didn’t crack any jokes.

She told him she wasn’t going home until she knew he was safe, but the line went dead. Figuring Suarez was walking to his parents’ house, she drove up Himes Avenue.

About 4 a.m. she saw the lights.

“Oh, great, they picked him up and they’re going to put him in jail because of public intoxication,” she thought.

Then she saw him lying on the street. She recognized his white undershirt and shoes. She begged police to let her talk to him, so he would know she had kept her promise. But they held her back as the paramedics worked.

That tortures her, she said.

“Maybe if he had heard my voice he would have reacted and not gone.”

“god forgives”

Every afternoon since July 21, his family has prayed the rosary. Each time, about 100 people come to the house to join them.

His cousins drove 42 hours from Mexico to Tampa to mourn his death. His ex-wife, Yvette Martinez, flew in from Air Force service in Afghanistan.

Suarez was buried Thursday after a morning mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

But the family’s ordeal continues.

There’s still the man with the pitchfork gang tattoo and more than 10 previous arrests awaiting trial.

Hating Sanabria won’t bring her son back, said Hermelinda Suarez. The mother only had two words to say to him: “God forgives.”

“I’d like to talk to him,” said Sgt. Sumaya. “Ask him, ‘Why?'”

Suarez was learning how to play the guitar. He had just gotten his motorcycle permit. He dreamed of one day starting a family.

What hits his friends the hardest is the way he died.

Suarez always said he hated gangs, thought they made people weak and robbed them of personality.

Suarez’s friend Villavicencio is outraged by the senselessness of his death.

“He’s a Marine,” she said, “not some little hoodlum, to get shot in the street.”

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

http://www.theledger.com/article/20070729/NEWS/707290438/1004

After Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine Left Dying on Tampa Street

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 8:04 pm

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS & MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
St. Petersburg Times – Published Sunday, July 29, 2007
TAMPA – Just after the first bomb exploded in the Iraq war, Miguel Angel Suarez enlisted in the Marines.

His parents and five siblings warned him of the dangers abroad, but Suarez said he wanted to repay this country for the better life his family found after moving here from Mexico City when he was7 years old. It was March 2003, and this new war was his chance.

He survived tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. When his four-year enlistment was up this year, he signed up again. This time, he would work from a safer base in Tampa.

The insurgents never got him. But early July 21, Suarez was gunned down and left to die a mile and a half from his childhood home.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies say a 21-year-old gang member killed the Marine in a botched robbery attempt.

Jonathan Sanabria of 18425 Bittern Ave. saw Suarez, 25, walking home from a concert near the corner of North Himes and West Sligh avenues, deputies said.

In the ensuing scuffle, Sanabria pistol-whipped Suarez, shot him twice and left him lying in the street, deputies said.

They arrested Sanabria, described by deputies as a member of the Gangster Disciples gang of Chicago, Tuesday evening on a first-degree murder charge.

Sanabria, in jail without bail, told detectives it all happened because he wanted Suarez’s gold chain.

“El Toro”

Pedro Suarez sat outside his West Tampa home Wednesday afternoon, cloaked head to toe in his little brother’s full camouflage uniform, still wondering how anyone could kill Miguel.

This was the man who traveled to Mexico twice a year to surprise his 81-year-old grandmother with mariachis and flowers.

The Marine who stayed quiet about the dangers in Afghanistan and Iraq to keep his mother from worrying.

Miguel Suarez had been the baby of the family.

But in the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, everyone knew him as “El Toro.”

He spoke in double entendre, making jokes that slid by most. Sgt. Jimmy Ray Sumaya always laughed.

“Finally,” Suarez told him when they met. “Someone who knows what I’m talking about.”

They became quick friends, and Sumaya encouraged him to re-enlist this year.

Suarez did and told his brothers he wanted to make the Marines a lifelong career.

a strange mood

The night he died, Suarez went to a Colombian Independence Day concert with a childhood friend, Janeth Valderrama.

In their tight-knit group, Suarez played the role of “the Fonz,” she said. He razzed his friends, hassled waiters and never let himself – or his pals – make excuses.

“You wouldn’t get the comfort; you’d get the truth,” Valderrama said. In situations where some might offer consolation, he made people face reality: “Yeah, it was your fault.”

Still, Suarez’s friends trusted him not to judge or lecture them, said Liliana Villavicencio. He played pranks on them but was there when they needed him.

And despite his irreverence, he knew when to focus. Before exams at Jefferson High School, his normal goofing off gave way to diligent studying, Villavicencio said.

Suarez started out his usual self Friday night. Valderrama picked him up at the house he had just bought in Riverview. They drove to the concert at the Hindu Temple of Florida on Lynn Road. Suarez had a few drinks and danced with his friends.

But by 2 a.m. his mood had changed.

“He was really drunk and seemed really bored,” Valderrama said. “I don’t know exactly why.”

She left him for a moment to check on her sister. When she returned, Suarez was gone.

When the concert ended at 3 a.m., Valderrama waited outside to see if her friend would emerge.

She called him on her cell phone, and after a long wait he called her back.

He apologized for his behavior and told her how much her friendship meant to him. But he also said he wanted to be alone, and told her to go home.

She could tell he was in a strange mood because he didn’t crack any jokes.

She told him she wasn’t going home until she knew he was safe, but the line went dead. Figuring Suarez was walking to his parents’ house, she drove up Himes Avenue.

About 4 a.m. she saw the lights.

“Oh, great, they picked him up and they’re going to put him in jail because of public intoxication,” she thought.

Then she saw him lying on the street. She recognized his white undershirt and shoes. She begged police to let her talk to him, so he would know she had kept her promise. But they held her back as the paramedics worked.

That tortures her, she said.

“Maybe if he had heard my voice he would have reacted and not gone.”

“god forgives”

Every afternoon since July 21, his family has prayed the rosary. Each time, about 100 people come to the house to join them.

His cousins drove 42 hours from Mexico to Tampa to mourn his death. His ex-wife, Yvette Martinez, flew in from Air Force service in Afghanistan.

Suarez was buried Thursday after a morning mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

But the family’s ordeal continues.

There’s still the man with the pitchfork gang tattoo and more than 10 previous arrests awaiting trial.

Hating Sanabria won’t bring her son back, said Hermelinda Suarez. The mother only had two words to say to him: “God forgives.”

“I’d like to talk to him,” said Sgt. Sumaya. “Ask him, ‘Why?'”

Suarez was learning how to play the guitar. He had just gotten his motorcycle permit. He dreamed of one day starting a family.

What hits his friends the hardest is the way he died.

Suarez always said he hated gangs, thought they made people weak and robbed them of personality.

Suarez’s friend Villavicencio is outraged by the senselessness of his death.

“He’s a Marine,” she said, “not some little hoodlum, to get shot in the street.”

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

http://www.theledger.com/article/20070729/NEWS/707290438/1004

Are Gang Members Using Military Training?

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 7:50 pm

Military Police Have Briefed Local Police That Troops Could Be Sharing Their Skills

July 28, 2007
——————————————————————————–
Four U.S. Marines in South Carolina were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. (CBS/Richland Co. Sheriff)

A Quote

“The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters.”

Hunter Glass

——————————————————————————–

(CBS) Like most American cities, Columbia, South Carolina, has its share of problems, but nothing prepared the Sheriff Leon Lott for what his department discovered last August.

Four U.S. Marines – who proudly snapped pictures of each other – were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. The leader was a lance corporal.

“We have enough problems with local kids and what they are doing,” Lott, the Richland County Sheriff, said. “But to have the Marines – someone who is trained – to come up here and recruit and give them the training they’ve had in the military, it scares me to death cause it tells me we’re at war with these gangs.”

It’s a concern also raised by the FBI. In a recent report the agency warned: “Military training could ultimately result in more sophisticated and deadly gangs … as well deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.”

CBS News has learned that military police have briefed local authorities in major cities, including New York, about the rising danger that gang members in the military could share their skills with gangs on the streets. That could include combat, logistics, and even emergency medical skills.

“We heard about it in other places,” Lott said. “We didn’t think Columbia, South Carolina would be a place where the military would have influence on our gangs, but we had it.”

Army investigators tell CBS News that there is absolutely no evidence that soldiers are using their combat training in gang activity, nor proof that gangs are sending members into the military to learn such skills. They insist the threat is low.

“We’re not seeing this in this particular time – we’re just not,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the U.S. Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal. “It’s just a theory.”

But there was an incident in which a disturbed Marine used his training to kill two policemen. In January, 2005, the Marine, who police say was associated with the Norteno street gang, shot to death two policeman outside a convenience store in Ceres, California.

Surveillance video shows him using a technique marines call “cutting the pie” – instead of cowering, he boldly attacks.

“Gangs are gaining strength across the United States,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective who tracks gangs. “The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters.”

The House of Representatives has passed legislation prohibiting service members from associating with street gangs. A Senate could vote could come next month. But there are also calls to raise enlistment standards, which have slipped to such an extent that one in 10 new army recruits has a criminal record.

“We were able in the 80’s and into the 90’s to say, ‘you have to be special to serve your country because this is difficult work’,” said Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. “But now we are saying, ‘we are so desperate for people, we are going to take anybody as long as you can walk through the door’.”

A short term solution for the military and a future problem, some say, for police departments in their war against street gangs.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/29/eveningnews/main3108597.shtml

Are Gang Members Using Military Training?

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 7:50 pm

Military Police Have Briefed Local Police That Troops Could Be Sharing Their Skills

July 28, 2007
——————————————————————————–
Four U.S. Marines in South Carolina were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. (CBS/Richland Co. Sheriff)

A Quote

“The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters.”

Hunter Glass

——————————————————————————–

(CBS) Like most American cities, Columbia, South Carolina, has its share of problems, but nothing prepared the Sheriff Leon Lott for what his department discovered last August.

Four U.S. Marines – who proudly snapped pictures of each other – were recruiting local kids, some as young as 13, into the Crips street gang. The leader was a lance corporal.

“We have enough problems with local kids and what they are doing,” Lott, the Richland County Sheriff, said. “But to have the Marines – someone who is trained – to come up here and recruit and give them the training they’ve had in the military, it scares me to death cause it tells me we’re at war with these gangs.”

It’s a concern also raised by the FBI. In a recent report the agency warned: “Military training could ultimately result in more sophisticated and deadly gangs … as well deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.”

CBS News has learned that military police have briefed local authorities in major cities, including New York, about the rising danger that gang members in the military could share their skills with gangs on the streets. That could include combat, logistics, and even emergency medical skills.

“We heard about it in other places,” Lott said. “We didn’t think Columbia, South Carolina would be a place where the military would have influence on our gangs, but we had it.”

Army investigators tell CBS News that there is absolutely no evidence that soldiers are using their combat training in gang activity, nor proof that gangs are sending members into the military to learn such skills. They insist the threat is low.

“We’re not seeing this in this particular time – we’re just not,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the U.S. Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal. “It’s just a theory.”

But there was an incident in which a disturbed Marine used his training to kill two policemen. In January, 2005, the Marine, who police say was associated with the Norteno street gang, shot to death two policeman outside a convenience store in Ceres, California.

Surveillance video shows him using a technique marines call “cutting the pie” – instead of cowering, he boldly attacks.

“Gangs are gaining strength across the United States,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective who tracks gangs. “The numbers are increasing like crazy around the U.S. and adding this extra fuel is just not going to help matters.”

The House of Representatives has passed legislation prohibiting service members from associating with street gangs. A Senate could vote could come next month. But there are also calls to raise enlistment standards, which have slipped to such an extent that one in 10 new army recruits has a criminal record.

“We were able in the 80’s and into the 90’s to say, ‘you have to be special to serve your country because this is difficult work’,” said Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. “But now we are saying, ‘we are so desperate for people, we are going to take anybody as long as you can walk through the door’.”

A short term solution for the military and a future problem, some say, for police departments in their war against street gangs.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/29/eveningnews/main3108597.shtml

Gang activity more common in military

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 9:53 am

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) — Urban street gangs have moved from U.S. cities into the U.S. military, with gang graffiti even showing up on Humvees in Iraq.

Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, N.C., where Fort Bragg is located, said strains on the military because of Iraq and Afghanistan make it difficult to keep gangs out of the military.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” Glass told CBS News.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command said the number of gang-related investigations increased from nine in 2004 to 61 last year. But officials said gang activity is still a tiny part of its caseload.

The increase coincides with the increase in the number of recruits given waivers for having criminal records. Membership in a street gang is not necessarily a disqualifier.

Stephanie Cockrell, whose son was killed in a gang initiation in Germany two weeks before his discharge, said that should change.

“I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard,” she said.
http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/07/28/gang_activity_more_common_in_military/1050/

Gang activity more common in military

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 9:53 am

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) — Urban street gangs have moved from U.S. cities into the U.S. military, with gang graffiti even showing up on Humvees in Iraq.

Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, N.C., where Fort Bragg is located, said strains on the military because of Iraq and Afghanistan make it difficult to keep gangs out of the military.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” Glass told CBS News.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command said the number of gang-related investigations increased from nine in 2004 to 61 last year. But officials said gang activity is still a tiny part of its caseload.

The increase coincides with the increase in the number of recruits given waivers for having criminal records. Membership in a street gang is not necessarily a disqualifier.

Stephanie Cockrell, whose son was killed in a gang initiation in Germany two weeks before his discharge, said that should change.

“I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard,” she said.
http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/07/28/gang_activity_more_common_in_military/1050/

July 28, 2007

Exclusive: Gangs Spreading In The Military

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 7:48 pm

CBS News Talks To The Family Of A U.S. Soldier Killed In Gang Initiation
July 28, 2007
——————————————————————————–
Shavon Striggles, a Marine corporal, poses in gang colors inside the barracks on Parris Island. (Richland County Sheriff)

A Quote

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have. But how would I have known there were gangs in the military?”

Stephanie Cockrell – Mother of Sgt. Juwan Johnson

(CBS) U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero’s welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.

“Not only did I love my son – but my god – I liked the man he was becoming,” his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.

But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.

When Johnson died, he wasn’t in a war zone, he was in Germany.

“He had finished his term in Iraq,” his mother said. “I talked to him the day before his death. He said, ‘Mom, I’m in the process of discharging out. I’ll be out in two weeks’.”

On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a “jump-in” – an initiation rite common to many gangs.

“My son never spoke of joining a gang,” Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have,” his mother said. “But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him.”

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it “a threat to law enforcement and national security.” The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

“If we weren’t in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue,” Glass said. “But with a war going on, I think it’s very difficult to do.”

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he’s been warned he’s as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

“We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.

“We must remember that there are a million people in the army community,” Smith said, “And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem.”

The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as “moral waivers” for felonies including robbery and assault.

A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, “Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?” That is well within military regulations.

“You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything … OK … but that in itself does not disqualify…,” the recruiter said.

Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s family says such a prohibition is long overdue.

“Just maybe we can save someone else’s child … somebody else’s husband … somebody else’s father,” his mother said. “I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard.”

This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson’s attackers to prison.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/28/eveningnews/main3107316.shtml

Exclusive: Gangs Spreading In The Military

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 7:48 pm

CBS News Talks To The Family Of A U.S. Soldier Killed In Gang Initiation
July 28, 2007
——————————————————————————–
Shavon Striggles, a Marine corporal, poses in gang colors inside the barracks on Parris Island. (Richland County Sheriff)

A Quote

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have. But how would I have known there were gangs in the military?”

Stephanie Cockrell – Mother of Sgt. Juwan Johnson

(CBS) U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero’s welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.

“Not only did I love my son – but my god – I liked the man he was becoming,” his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.

But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.

When Johnson died, he wasn’t in a war zone, he was in Germany.

“He had finished his term in Iraq,” his mother said. “I talked to him the day before his death. He said, ‘Mom, I’m in the process of discharging out. I’ll be out in two weeks’.”

On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a “jump-in” – an initiation rite common to many gangs.

“My son never spoke of joining a gang,” Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.

“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have,” his mother said. “But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him.”

Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it “a threat to law enforcement and national security.” The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.

“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.

“If we weren’t in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue,” Glass said. “But with a war going on, I think it’s very difficult to do.”

Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.

The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he’s been warned he’s as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.

“We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.

“We must remember that there are a million people in the army community,” Smith said, “And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem.”

The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as “moral waivers” for felonies including robbery and assault.

A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, “Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?” That is well within military regulations.

“You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything … OK … but that in itself does not disqualify…,” the recruiter said.

Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s family says such a prohibition is long overdue.

“Just maybe we can save someone else’s child … somebody else’s husband … somebody else’s father,” his mother said. “I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard.”

This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson’s attackers to prison.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/07/28/eveningnews/main3107316.shtml

July 25, 2007

Second soldier is jailed in gang beating death

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 9:22 am

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MANNHEIM, Germany — Sgt. Rodney Howell was sentenced to six years confinement and a dishonorable discharge Tuesday for his role in the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Howell, who faced a possible 19 years behind bars, is the second soldier in as many weeks to be convicted, sentenced to jail time and given a dishonorable discharge for killing Johnson. Last week, Pvt. Terrence Norman was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

An eyewitness testified that nine men beat Johnson for six minutes during a July 2005 Gangster Disciples initiation near Kaiserslautern.

Army Judge Col. Julie Hasdorff determined Howell’s sentence and verdict because Howell opted against a court-martial by jury. Hasdorff found Howell guilty of involuntary manslaughter, violating an Army regulation on hazing, conspiring to violate the Army regulation on hazing and making a false official statement.

Under the hazing charge, Howell was convicted for his own 2004 initiation into the gang, which took place when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq.

The judge found Howell not guilty of aggravated assault.

Howell was also sentenced to reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

The most serious charge Howell faced was involuntary manslaughter for his role in the July 3, 2005, jump-in initiation of Johnson, who died of multiple blunt force trauma the next day.

Before sentencing, Howell gave a tearful unsworn statement in which he apologized to Johnson’s wife.

Much of the prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of Pvt. Latisha Ellis, who said as a one-time gang recruit she was only a spectator to the beating.

Ellis testified that Howell was one of the current or former servicemembers who beat Johnson during the initiation ritual near Kaiserslautern.

“It is time for Sergeant Rodney Howell to take responsibility for his actions,” said Capt. Rebecca DiMuro, prosecuting attorney. “Sergeant Howell and his fellow Gangster Disciples conspired to initiate Sergeant Johnson in a jump-in/beat-in ceremony.”

With Ellis being the only source linking Howell and Johnson’s death, the details of her testimony were of vital importance, defense attorney Capt. Joe Venghaus said.

At the very least, Ellis was exaggerating when she testified Johnson was punched 220 times and kicked 12 times during the beating, Venghaus said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when we see the pictures of Sergeant Johnson,” Venghaus said.

Dr. David Posey, an expert in forensic pathology, testified for the defense that Ellis’ testimony of what happened is not consistent with injuries he saw in Johnson’s autopsy photos.

“I would have expected to see a lot more injuries to the head and neck,” said Posey, a retired Army colonel.

Ellis testified that Johnson was kicked in the chest repeatedly by the self-proclaimed gang leader, Rico Williams. Photos of Johnson’s chest and abdomen did not show significant damage.

“If [Johnson] was kicked in the chest, I’d expect to see some injuries there,” Posey said.

Under questioning from DiMuro, Posey said he saw injuries that would indicate Johnson was kicked in his left flank.

As for Ellis, DiMuro said when a crime is committed in hell there are no angels as witnesses.

“[Ellis] is no angel, but that does not mean what she told us is not true,” DiMuro said.

Next month, Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is scheduled to stand court-martial for playing a part in killing Johnson.
http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=47609

Second soldier is jailed in gang beating death

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 9:22 am

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MANNHEIM, Germany — Sgt. Rodney Howell was sentenced to six years confinement and a dishonorable discharge Tuesday for his role in the 2005 beating death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson.

Howell, who faced a possible 19 years behind bars, is the second soldier in as many weeks to be convicted, sentenced to jail time and given a dishonorable discharge for killing Johnson. Last week, Pvt. Terrence Norman was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

An eyewitness testified that nine men beat Johnson for six minutes during a July 2005 Gangster Disciples initiation near Kaiserslautern.

Army Judge Col. Julie Hasdorff determined Howell’s sentence and verdict because Howell opted against a court-martial by jury. Hasdorff found Howell guilty of involuntary manslaughter, violating an Army regulation on hazing, conspiring to violate the Army regulation on hazing and making a false official statement.

Under the hazing charge, Howell was convicted for his own 2004 initiation into the gang, which took place when Kaiserslautern’s 66th Transportation Company was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq.

The judge found Howell not guilty of aggravated assault.

Howell was also sentenced to reduction to private and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.

The most serious charge Howell faced was involuntary manslaughter for his role in the July 3, 2005, jump-in initiation of Johnson, who died of multiple blunt force trauma the next day.

Before sentencing, Howell gave a tearful unsworn statement in which he apologized to Johnson’s wife.

Much of the prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of Pvt. Latisha Ellis, who said as a one-time gang recruit she was only a spectator to the beating.

Ellis testified that Howell was one of the current or former servicemembers who beat Johnson during the initiation ritual near Kaiserslautern.

“It is time for Sergeant Rodney Howell to take responsibility for his actions,” said Capt. Rebecca DiMuro, prosecuting attorney. “Sergeant Howell and his fellow Gangster Disciples conspired to initiate Sergeant Johnson in a jump-in/beat-in ceremony.”

With Ellis being the only source linking Howell and Johnson’s death, the details of her testimony were of vital importance, defense attorney Capt. Joe Venghaus said.

At the very least, Ellis was exaggerating when she testified Johnson was punched 220 times and kicked 12 times during the beating, Venghaus said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when we see the pictures of Sergeant Johnson,” Venghaus said.

Dr. David Posey, an expert in forensic pathology, testified for the defense that Ellis’ testimony of what happened is not consistent with injuries he saw in Johnson’s autopsy photos.

“I would have expected to see a lot more injuries to the head and neck,” said Posey, a retired Army colonel.

Ellis testified that Johnson was kicked in the chest repeatedly by the self-proclaimed gang leader, Rico Williams. Photos of Johnson’s chest and abdomen did not show significant damage.

“If [Johnson] was kicked in the chest, I’d expect to see some injuries there,” Posey said.

Under questioning from DiMuro, Posey said he saw injuries that would indicate Johnson was kicked in his left flank.

As for Ellis, DiMuro said when a crime is committed in hell there are no angels as witnesses.

“[Ellis] is no angel, but that does not mean what she told us is not true,” DiMuro said.

Next month, Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson is scheduled to stand court-martial for playing a part in killing Johnson.
http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=47609

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