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, November 13, 2008

Gangs in the Military

Updated: Nov 12, 2008 10:49 PM
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV On Your Side has obtained picture and video proof our military is being infiltrated by members of street gangs. In some cases, detectives say gang members are using the tactics learned to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan to commit crimes on the streets of America. Anchor Molly Grantham is investigating.

They serve and protect under the flag of the United States of America. They protect our freedoms, and represent our great country. Some of them are gang members.

"Gangs are on the rise in every major city in the United States," says Hunter Glass, a gang consultant. "They're on the rise in the military."

Glass is an 82nd Airborne veteran and former gang detective with Fayetteville Police Department. He left policing in 2006 and now travels the country lecturing about and investigating gang life.

"Putting these people in the military doesn't change them," says Glass. "And you're certainly not going to kick them all out. If you start kicking them out... let's just say it's one percent of the military... you're going to kick out 14,000 people? I don't think so.

"America has the greatest military in the world," he continued. "I was a soldier. My dad is a veteran. I love and respect the military. But I'm also a realist. I'm telling you, it's there. To turn a blind eye isn't going to help anything."

WBTV obtained pictures which show gang graffiti in Iraq.

Images like, a Vice Lords star sprayed on a Humvee. A picture of four men dressed in fatigues showing off rifles, posted on an 18th Street Gang website. Another picture shows a guy flashing a gang sign on a "Realize Your Potential" Army recruiting chat room. Still others capture tanks and bomb walls covered with gang tagging... even a six-pointed 360-degrees intricate gang star pictured in barracks.

But the most unbelievably eye-catching images are on Glass's computer.

He shows us home video taken years ago at a popular nightclub on Fort Bragg. You can see people on the dance floor using their hands to chant "Crips"... while across the room, Blood members are throwing down signs that mean "Crip Killers".

The video proves gang life is on this North Carolina base. A Fort Bragg spokesman doesn't deny it.

"I'm positive there are gang members in the US Army," says Tom McCollum. "There are gang members probably here on Fort Bragg also, but we do everything possible to get rid of them."

McCollum says the Army's goal is to weed out as much gang activity as possible. Whenever they do find tattoos or some kind of sign, they pull the soldier off to the side and interview them in-depth. He says the soldier in question will be watched closely by his or her command to see how elevated and active they are in a gang.

"Are gang members in the military," he says. "Yes. Is it a large problem? It's not as large of a problem as some people would like to believe."

As for actual numbers, officials said they had no way of really knowing exactly how many. Glass estimates about one percent -- which would be about 14-thousand people. He also says he thinks the military should enact solid laws to deal with the element.

"In many ways I think the military is robbing Peter to pay Paul," says Glass. "It's a quick fix. We need manpower. We get these guys in here. They're good dogs in the fight. We'll worry about it later."

Later, is now. These gang members are getting trained in the military and using their knowledge to come back and fight on American streets. While in California a month ago, we interviewed two L-A County gang investigators in south central Los Angeles. Just listen to what Detective Adan Torres told us.

"One of the biggest gangbangers around here actually has on his license plate, ‘Iraq veteran, or veteran Iraq'," he said. "He's got F-13 on the back of his head. Florencia on back. F-13 on his arms... and two purple hearts. Been on two tours of duty. He's trained than half the officers here anyway, fighting him."

That's the "gotcha" -- hearing veteran gang detectives say some gang members are purple heart recipients who are a better shot than most police.

Those detectives in California listed a couple examples of problematic gang members they see all the time, who are also American soldiers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fort Sill official fires back at gang report

The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Nov 11, 2008 8:55:20 EST

LAWTON, Okla. — Fort Sill’s liaison to the city of Lawton is firing back at a police officer’s comments that soldiers at the base are involved in gangs.

Col. Robert Bridgford issued a written statement saying information released by police Lt. Darrell Southerland “was completely inaccurate.”

Southerland oversees the city’s gang task force unit and told The Oklahoman last week that he’s warned Fort Sill officials for years about a widespread gang problem.

Bridgford’s statement says no soldier has been arrested or implicated in gang activity in the past year. It also says military police have no information of soldiers being a member of a gang or being involved in gang-related activities.

Bridgford’s statement came after a closed-door meeting with Lawton Mayor John Purcell, City Manager Larry Mitchell, Police Chief Ronnie Smith and Southerland.

Related reading

Local police say Fort Sill has a gang problem (Nov. 10)

Gangs at Army installation are topic of heated debate

Gangs at Army installation are topic of heated debate
OUR VIEWS: Fort Sill

The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: November 12, 2008

ASK police in Lawton if Fort Sill has a gang problem, and the answer is a definite yes. Ask the Army, and the answer is just as definitely no. So, who to believe?

In a story Sunday, The Oklahoman’s Ron Jackson wrote about Army men who police say are also known gang members. Balderdash, the Fort Sill brass exclaimed one day later.

Jackson noted the case of Spc. Gregory Darnell King, a reservist who served with the 177th Field Artillery. In an image collected by the Lawton gang unit, King can be seen flashing a sign affiliated with a national gang that has members in Lawton. The story detailed how King has been arrested six times in the past two years by Lawton police on various complaints, including drug possession.

Jackson reported on the death of a soldier, suspected of being a member of the notorious Blood gang, who was killed in a gang-related argument outside a Lawton nightclub.

Certainly, these are just two men of thousands who serve — and do so admirably — at Fort Sill. But the case built by the Lawton police about gang-related problems linked directly to the post is pretty strong. The man who heads up the police gang task force, Lt. Darnell Southerland, said flatly, "People don’t want to face the truth, but it’s true. Fort Sill has a problem with gangs.”

The post’s leadership begs to differ. On Monday, a high-ranking officer issued a statement that said Southerland’s information was "completely inaccurate and totally outdated,” and that no soldier had been arrested or implicated in gang activity in the past year. The rebuttal was issued after a private sitdown with Southerland, the mayor, the police chief and the city manager. Southerland was ordered not to speak with the media.

In his earlier interview with our reporter, Southerland said his unit has routinely shared with post officials its evidence, gleaned from traffic stops and arrests. "But nobody wants to listen,” he said.

Clearly, they’re listening now.

We hope the reaction was designed to quell any notion that Fort Sill is rife with gang members, as opposed to trying to impugn the detective. The post isn’t overrun with gang-bangers, of course, and Southerland, a 20-year veteran of the department, never suggested as much. But he and his task force aren’t making these stories up.

We’re reminded of what Hunter Glass, an expert in the study of gangs in the military, told Jackson. His lectures "aren’t always popular. People get angry,” Glass said. "I’ve had politicians call me, generals call me ... but people have to wake up.”

The case built by the Lawton police about gang-related problems linked directly to the post is pretty strong.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Friends paint different picture of Kevin Cox, suspect in the murder of Brooklyn-born Marine

Updated Monday, November 10th 2008, 4:46 PM

One of the four Marines accused of brutally murdering their Brooklyn-raised sergeant and wife was described Monday by friends as "sweet" and "caring."

They also described 20-year-old Pvt. Kevin Cox as a follower who was "very easily influenced."

"I couldn't see him doing anything like this on his own," said Maurice McDavid, 20, a college football player who grew up with Cox in DeKalb, Ill. "In high school, they put him in classes with me to make sure he was staying out of trouble."


Jamaine Armbruster, 19, a student at Cal State University in Northridge, Calif., said she dated Cox last year and was stunned when he was implicated in the murders of Sgt. Jan Pawel Pietrzak and his wife, Quiana.

"I'm totally shocked to find out Kevin had anything to do with something like this," she said. "He was a sweet guy and very caring."

Cox, who last lived in Tennessee, and three other Marines based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., were charged last week with breaking into the Pietrzak home on Oct. 15. They allegedly executed the newlyweds after torturing them and raping the bride repeatedly.

Investigators say the motive was robbery, but the victims' families don't believe it.


Pietrzak, 24, who was born in Poland and raised in Bensonhurst, and his 26-year-old wife, had been married for just two months when they were murdered.

Pvt. Emrys John, 18, was identified as the triggerman who killed the couple by shooting them in the back of their heads. "Chillin waitin 4 da killin," was the caption under a photo he posted on his MySpace web site.

Lance Cpl. Tyrone Miller, 20, told investiagtors he bound and gagged the couple and then debated with John whether to kill them. Cops are checking whether Miller has ties to the violent Crips street gang.

Pvt. Kesuan Sykes, 21, is nicknamed "Psycho" and admitted that he "cut" off Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak's clothes, the court papers state.

All of the suspects say that Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak was sexually assaulted, but each says it was the other three who did it, according to court records.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lawton police say Fort Sill has a gang problem

Associated Press - November 9, 2008 7:15 PM ET

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - Lawton police say the Fort Sill Army base is home to many soldiers who also are gang members, but base officials dispute that claim.

Lt. Darrell Southerland, a 20-year police veteran who oversees the Lawton Gang Task Force Unit, says his six-member unit has routinely gathered and shared evidence with Fort Sill officials about soldiers stationed at Fort Sill who also are gang members.

He says evidence has been obtained through traffic stops and arrests and includes photos of gang-related tattoos and information from informants.

Southerland says Fort Sill has a problem with gangs but nobody wants to listen.

Fort Sill spokesman Jon Long disagrees. He says police have not presented any evidence of a widespread gang problem involving Fort Sill soldiers to base officials.

Long says the photos and Web site images of soldiers flashing gang signs, which have collected by Lawton police, are, quote, "not proof that the person pictured is actually a gang member."

Police fear Fort Sill is home to gang woes

Lawton law enforcement say they have told military officials about their concerns

Published: November 9, 2008

Men identified by Lawton police as Fort Sill soldiers flash gang signs in a photo from a social networking Web site. PHOTO Provided by Lawton Police

LAWTON — Soldiers such as Spc. Gregory Darnell King II are emerging as a new kind of face at Fort Sill — a face police claim many high-ranking military officers won’t acknowledge, let alone talk about.

Featured Video

Lawton Gangs

Nov 8 LT. Darrell Southerland, of Lawton's Gang Task Force, talks about the gang members on Lawton's streets.

Lawton police identified King as a "known gang member.”

And police say he is one of many who are either stationed at or have passed through Fort Sill.

"People don’t want to face the truth, but it’s true,” said Lt. Darrell Southerland, a 20-year veteran who oversees Lawton’s Gang Task Force Unit. "Fort Sill has a problem with gangs. We see it every Friday and Saturday nights on the streets. But nobody wants to listen.”

Southerland thinks it’s time for Fort Sill to hear his pleas. But Fort Sill spokesman Jon Long contends: "No evidence of a widespread gang problem involving Fort Sill soldiers has been presented to Fort Sill by the LPD (Lawton Police Department) or city officials.”

In a recent interview with the post newspaper, "The Cannoneer,” Special Agent Jessica Jasper of Fort Sill’s Criminal Investigation Command said: "In the last calendar year, the CID and MPI have not worked any gang-related offenses on post. ... We’ve not been called to respond to any of those concerns.”

Southerland said his six-member unit has routinely gathered and shared evidence with post officials about gang membership among soldiers stationed at Fort Sill.

Evidence was obtained from traffic stops and arrests and includes photographs of gang-related tattoos and details from informants.

On Web sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, local soldiers post pictures of themselves flashing gang signs.

Growing concerns

The gang unit has a binder stuffed with such photographs, images spokesman Long says "is not proof that the person pictured is actually a gang member.”

In one image, King — a reservist who served with the 177th Field Artillery — can be seen flashing a sign affiliated with the 107 Hoover Crips, a nationwide gang known to have members in Lawton.

Since 2006, King has been arrested six times by Lawton police on complaints ranging from drug possession to driving with loaded firearms. King was last arrested Sept. 25 for not paying his court fines.

Investigators list his gang affiliation as "107 Hoover” and occupation as "SPC-E4.”

"I told them about King,” Southerland said. "I was told, ‘Look, this guy is a hero. He pulled someone out of a burning Humvee in Iraq, and we’re not touching him.’ What are you gonna do?”

King could not be reached for comment.

In January, soldiers David Coleman and Ira Easterling — suspected Blood gang members stationed at Fort Sill — engaged in a deadly clash outside a Lawton nightclub with suspected civilian gang member Ronald Walker of the 107 Hoovers, Southerland said. An argument ensued. Shots were fired. Easterling died.

"The argument started with one guy disrespecting the other,” Southerland said. "Next thing you know, guns are pulled. ...”

A war within a war

Tattoo artist Rocky White, who operates a shop just beyond Fort Sill’s gates, isn’t shocked by the idea.

"Young soldiers come in here all the time asking me to do some gang-related tattoo,” White said.

"I sit them down and lecture them on the profound effect it could have on their lives and their military careers.”

Recently, White said a Marine recruiter approached him about hiding a young recruit’s swastika tattoo with an Irish clover. The combination is a symbol for the Aryan Brotherhood.

"If they are persistent, I just refuse,” White said.

"I have a real problem doing any kind of drug- or gang-related tattoos.”

Experts claim gangs in the military are nothing new, although the subject always seems to shock the senses of the general population.

Hunter Glass, a former U.S. Army soldier who specializes studying military gangs, said the problem is alarming and widespread.

"I often encounter people who express disbelief,” Glass told The Oklahoman from his North Carolina home. "And my lectures aren’t always popular. People get angry. I’ve had politicians call me, generals call me ... but people have to wake up. The military is a reflection of society. Why wouldn’t there be gang members in the military?

"The world isn’t always Norman Rockwell.”

Southerland and his gang task force members are now bracing for the thousands of soldiers who will transfer to Fort Sill with the Army Air Defense School from Fort Bliss by 2011. Police fear the transfers could ignite a turf war among military gang members.

The National Gang Intelligence Center mentioned Fort Bliss in a 2006 report, noting authorities had identified more than 40 suspected military-affiliated members of the Chicago-based Folk Nation gang on post.

"By their nature, gang members are violent and territorial,” Glass said. "I’d say the likelihood of conflict is highly probable.”

There is one more concern, perhaps the greatest of all.

"It’s a disgrace to the military,” said Clay Houseman, a gang task force member. "Our veterans didn’t fight and die in wars so these guys could join the military and terrorize our streets as members of gangs. We just can’t let that happen.”