The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Soldier held in city shooting could be freed

Case in which 5 were shot is 'legally insufficient,' says city prosecutor's office

A Baltimore soldier charged with shooting five people in a gang-related dispute last month could be freed from an Oklahoma jail today after city prosecutors drop the case, the state's attorney's office said this morning.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor's office, said the case against Jerrell Hill is "legally insufficient." Hill is being held in a county detention center near Fort Sill.

Burns also said that authorities are withdrawing an extradition request for Hill, 18, who was charged this week with attempted murder in a warrant.
The attack occurred Sept. 20 in East Baltimore's Barclay neighborhood when police said two men approached a group on the street and one fired at least twice with a shotgun loaded with birdshot -- tiny metal pellets that, when discharged from a shotgun, can spray a wide area.

Police said at least three of the five victims who were shot have ties to a rival gang known as the Young Gorilla Family, which claims the Barclay neighborhood. Law enforcement officials believe the Young Gorilla Family and Bloods gang members have been responsible for a string of shootings and homicides in Barclay during the past year.

A police spokesman said investigators believe that the shooting suspect is a member of a local Bloods group known as the Pasadena Denver Lane gang. Hill's parents have said their son was not responsible for the attack and said they had no knowledge of his involvement in any violent gangs.

Hill's parents said they took their son to BWI Marshall Airport for an 11 a.m. American Airlines flight Sept. 11 and watched him pass through the security checkpoint, "and he was supposed to report back to base," Robert Hill said.

But earlier this week, Army officials said they could not publicly disclose when Hill reported to the base. Police also said they had witnesses who identified Hill as the suspected shooter.

Sterling Clifford, a city police spokesman, said this morning that new questions have come up about the case and where Hill was at the time of the shooting. Clifford said evidence does support that Hill flew to Oklahoma on Sept. 11 but that he did not report to Fort Sill until Sept. 21, a day after the shootings in East Baltimore.

Sterling said that Hill remains a "person of interest" and that the investigation is open and continuing.

Robert Hill said his son dropped out of one of the small schools at the former Northern High School in 10th grade but completed a security trades program at Woodstock Job Corps Center. Jerrell Hill, the younger of two children, earned his GED in March and enlisted in April because "he decided he wanted to get off the streets and do something with his life," his father said.

He joined the Army on April 25 and was a private assigned to 1st Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery at Fort Sill, according to military officials. He had been assigned to the artillery unit last month, officials said.,0,1360428.story?coll=bal-artslife-neighborhood


Oct 19, 2007 9:20 am US/Eastern

Evidence Clears Md. Soldier Of Shooting

by Dennis Edwards BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― Charges are dropped against soldier Jerrell Hill after indisputable evidence showed he left town before a Baltimore shooting.Charges are dropped against soldier Jerrell Hill after indisputable evidence showed he left town before a Baltimore shooting.

A new twist in the case of a Maryland soldier accused in a shooting. The judge asked that the charges be dismissed Thursday.

Dennis Edwards reports the charges are dropped after indisputable evidence showed Jerrell Hill left town before the shooting.

In spite of the evidence, investigators aren't convinced.

Baltimore Police got an attempted murder warrant for Jerrell Hill after a witness says he shot five people with a shot gun full of bird pellets in the 5600 block of Barclay St. But it turns out Hill had flown back to his base assignment at Fort Sill, Okla. 9 days earlier.

"This afternoon a prosecutor in the State's Attorney's office went to a judge and requested that the arrest warrant be quashed and the case be dismissed," said Margaret Burns of the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office.

Dropping the charges means Hill will be released from military custody to return to duty.

It's good, but not unexpected news for the 18-year-old's father, mother and girlfriend.

"I really wasn't worried. I knew where he was at all times. I was 100 percent sure that this was gonna break down," said Jerrell's father Robert Hill.

"The investigator who got the information that he wasn't there until Sept. 21. Where did you get that information from? Why did my son's name come from in the first place, and how did it go this far," said Jerrell's mother Quintina Hill.

But police tell Eyewitness News their investigation isn't over yet. They say Hill could still face charges.

They're still looking into what they call contradictory evidence about Hill's whereabouts between Sept. 11 and 21.

"If that's the case, if he's not responsible for it, obviously we don't want him to spend any more time in custody than he has already. And if he is the suspect, if it comes back to him, then we'll go get him again," said Sterling Clifford of the Baltimore City Police.

Hill's parents say there's no doubt he was at Fort Sill at the time of the shooting and before that. The Hill family says there is ample documentation because military personnel must sign in and out of work assignments.

Now the family is looking into legal options for totally clearing his name.

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Felons helped Army meet recruitment goal

Web Posted: 10/12/2007 11:29 PM CDT
Sig ChristensonExpress-News
WASHINGTON — The Army made its recruiting goal last year despite an increasingly unpopular war by turning to people convicted of serious crimes.

Recruiters signed up people who had committed such felonies as arson, burglary, aggravated assault, breaking and entering and driving while intoxicated.
The Army Recruiting Command said "moral" waivers for 1,620 felons were approved in the 2007 federal fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That was far above the 2006 mark of 1,002.
The Army called giving waivers "the right thing to do" for those who want to serve. But a former Vietnam-era combat commander warned the service has cut a Faustian bargain it has made in the past and came to regret.
"I don't think that they should reduce their standards at all because it's not going to pay off for them," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, who had the job of improving the quality of recruits in the Northeast after standards fell in the wake of Vietnam.
"It will be a short-term fix in making numbers, but a long-term headache in terms of performance," he predicted, "and I don't know one Army officer — particularly those who went through the Vietnam and post-Vietnam period — who doesn't take that same view."
The Army Recruiting Command's chief, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, said a relatively small number of the service's 80,000-plus active-duty recruits are granted moral waivers.
Most moral waivers, he said, were for misdemeanors — "small-time things" like joyriding and teen drinking. He said he or his deputy approved waivers for all serious offenses.
The Army grants waivers for reasons ranging from medical conditions to aptitude scores.
The number of all waivers issued also rose significantly in 2007 over the previous year —18.5 percent of all recruits. The Recruiting Command said 22,186 waivers were granted, more than half of them for "moral character" issues.
Another 38.9 percent were medical waivers, with the remaining 6.7 percent for drug and alcohol problems.
In all, 8,330 moral waivers were issued in the 2006 fiscal year. Of those, 1,002 were for offenses the Army classified as felonies, Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said. Recruits allowed into boot camp, he added, received a reduced charge in many cases but still were classified as felons.
Those convicted of sexually violent offenses and drug dealing aren't allowed into the Army. Federal gun control law forbids people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes from serving. Those involved in school violence were barred after the Columbine shootings, the Army said, as are people in jail, on parole or facing felony charges.
The Army conducts an extensive investigation into the background of each person only after a court renders judgment.
University of Maryland military sociologist David Segal called the numbers striking. The Army couldn't say if they were a record, but one Pentagon official, Dr. David Chu, told reporters this week that while waivers in 2007 were within historical norm, they were "at the high end" of the range.
The Army's increasing reliance on people with questionable backgrounds comes amid a war that Segal and the recruiting command's Bostick agree has hurt recruiting.
"When you have a war that's not supported by the American people, you're not going to get the right people to join the American Army," said Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs during the Reagan administration, now a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress in Washington.
The Army, though, said the waiver program allows patriotic young people to serve their country. In a fact sheet on the subject, the Army notes just three in 10 Americans between 17 and 24 years old are fully qualified to serve. The Army, it adds, reflects American society and, as a result, is taking more overweight youths and people with asthma, along with those convicted of serious crimes.
Bostick conceded Iraq is the deal-breaker for people. Recruiters, he said, are struggling to win the hearts and minds of "influencers," parents and other authority figures who help guide young people.
The raw numbers underscore the Army's dilemma in the fifth year of the Iraq war. It signed up fewer high school graduates — just 79.07 percent in 2007, down slightly from the previous year. It's taking in more overweight recruits and a greater number of people who post the lowest scores on the military's aptitude test.
Those who have been members of gangs, though, aren't automatically excluded from service.
"It's the criminal behavior that would be cause for exclusion," said Smith of the recruiting command. Anyone seeking a moral waiver is closely scrutinized by both recruiters and their chain of command, he said.
He could not say how many on waivers make it through basic training or commit crimes — including felonies — once they are in uniform.
Some soldiers famed for their heroism in combat, however, had checkered pasts.
At 16, Louis Richard Rocco was about to be sentenced for grand theft auto and armed robbery when he visited an Army recruiter. After a heart-to-heart talk, the recruiter went with him to court, where a judge said he could join the Army at 17 if he stayed in school, obeyed a curfew and stopped hanging out with gang-member friends.
Rocco, who died at his San Antonio home in 2002 at 63, received the Medal of Honor after his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed. He retired as a chief warrant officer in 1978, four years after receiving the medal from President Ford, and re-enlisted during the first Gulf War.
Rocco, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, recruited medical personnel at Fort Sam Houston and later became a motivational speaker in the Alamo City.
Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the number of moral waivers for 2007 were "quite acceptable," and noted that rates for desertion and going AWOL "continue to be at historically low levels."
The Army could not say how many soldiers who came in on moral waivers last year were accused of committing offenses requiring court-martials or non-judicial punishment. It added that an examination of records in 2003 showed no "significant" problem.
But Trainor, co-author of "Cobra II," a critical look at the Iraq war, said it took seven years for the Marines to recover from their decision to lower recruiting standards. The corps fixed the problem, he said, by taking a "zero-tolerance" approach to those responsible for recruiting and training new Marines.
"Is there room for the renegade and the rogue in the enlisted ranks?" Trainor asked. "Yes, there is. You don't want to close it off because there's a guy there who is going to do a hell of a good job, but you have to be careful. I'm saying you have to be careful about the people you accept and invest in."