Turf Wars Are Fueling Seattle’s Gang Conflicts

Where a kid lives is enough to get him shot.

Life is over for Perry J. Henderson, 18, and it is imperiled for his killer, Jonathan J. Hall. At age 19, Hall pled guilty to the murder of Henderson, and last week went off to state prison in the continuing tradition of wasted youth. At a music and drinking party attended by perhaps 50 teens and hosted by two youths at their grandmother's South Seattle home in January 2008, Henderson was outraged at Hall over a girl they both liked. When Hall started to drive away, the stocky Henderson, who once chased a girl down the street with a knife just for touching him, kicked out Hall's SUV's headlights.Instantly Hall stopped and poked the barrel of a .38 out the truck's window. He sprayed Henderson, hitting him in the arm, foot, buttocks, and stomach. Someone put the dying teen, known as P.J., in a Cadillac, and his girlfriend jumped in, cradling his head."The first thing he said was 'I love you,' you know," the girl would later tell detectives, according to a police transcript. "And I was like, 'I'm so sorry.' I was like, 'I love you, P.J.'...And he would open his eyes and he would look at me like, like, as if the bullets weren't there."An arriving police car careened into the vehicle carrying Henderson. He eventually was put in an ambulance and sent to Harborview, where he died 11 days later. According to a confidential autopsy report, one slug had traveled fatally through Henderson's liver and aorta.Hall plea-bargained his way to a nine-year manslaughter term. He claimed he used the gun to defend himself, although one of his shots hit Henderson in the rear as he fled. Today, Hall is a prisoner and Henderson is a statistic, one of 17 male teens or young adults shot to death—mostly the result of street-gang disputes—in King County during 2008, according to a compilation by Seattle Weekly (the sheriff's office says it doesn't keep such figures). In December, law enforcement officials announced plans to crack down on rising youth violence, but released no death figures. The SW compilation shows that nine of the 17 died in Seattle, the others in suburban King County. Most of the victims were young African-Americans."We are going to pull out all the stops to keep them from killing each other," vowed King County Sheriff Sue Rahr at a Dec. 16 news conference. Yet that evening, former Franklin High basketball player Donnie Cheatham, 21, was severely wounded, shot in the face in what police said was a retaliatory act related to the November murder of a gang member on First Hill at Vito's Madison Grill, since closed.Round and round it goes. A steady flow of stolen firearms helps pump up the violence, police have found. But perhaps more pervasive is the culture that, as the Hall case shows, reveres guns as the best solution. Deputy King County prosecutor Bill Doyle says Hall's volley was literally overkill."There is no dispute that Henderson acted belligerently that night," says Doyle. But "the victim had his shirt off and was unarmed." Instead of killing him, Doyle adds, "Hall easily could have driven away and then called police."Similarly, in cases of gang-banging, it's often just a verbal insult or a step in the wrong direction that gets bullets flying. Nothing more than an imaginary line through Seattle, some observers say, is at the core of the ongoing feud between Central District and South End gangs."I believe many of the gangs will fight today just because they are simply from different neighborhoods," says Brad, who runs the Northwest Gangs Web site. (He asked that his last name not be used so he can maintain his low-profile relationship with gang members.)"There really is no reasoning behind it. For example, a group of guys from the South End sees a group of guys from the Central District, one says fuck the CD, the other says fuck the South End, they pull guns, shots are fired, and someone lays dead on the sidewalk. Simple as that."A teen girl who witnessed the Henderson shooting told police: "Like I don't be in the South End. I'm always in the Central District. You know what I mean? And when I actually do go to the South End, that's [i.e., the shooting] what happens."Brad says the primary gangs involved in the war of turf and insults are Deuce 8, Deuce 0, Union Street, Valley Hood Piru, and Low Profile in the Central District; and Down With The Crew, 74 Hoover Criminals, Tre-8 Genese Blocc Crips, Holly Blocc Hellraisers, and South Cloverdale in the South End. Some are affiliated with historic gang rivals the Bloods (CD) and the Crips (South End).Tukwila police say turf and insults were behind a November shooting at Southcenter Mall, which left Diaquan Jones, 16, dead. He was affiliated with the South End's 74 Hoover Criminals, records show. Charged with his murder is Barry Saunders, 21, affiliated with the CD's Low Profile. Witnesses told police that Saunders, Jones, and others had exchanged words and gang signs before shots rang out."A lot of these guys have parents, older siblings, or cousins who are part of gangs in the South End and Central District, and they just kind of follow in their footsteps," says Brad. "On MySpace, I'm starting to see these teenagers and young adults—many with small kids of their own now—showing off pictures of their children dressed in gang clothing.In 15 to 20 years, those little kids will be our next generation of gang members."Seattle gang expert Gabe Morales says he has seen that sort of grooming going on for years, as gangs began to dip into middle schools for new recruits. In December, a 17-year-old named Domanique Moore, a Black Gangster Disciple, police say, was accused of executing Federal Way college student Steven Jackson, 20, shooting him in the back of the head and taking his marijuana. Moore's accomplice was a 15-year-old. In January 2008, a suspected gang shooter gunned down De'Che Morrison in the South End. Morrison was all of 14.It is also pretty much a rule that one shooting will be repaid with another, even in a random manner. A witness to the Henderson shooting told detectives she got anonymous phone threats of retaliation, even though she'd had no role in the incident. "You better not slip up because we're going to get you and this ain't no joke," the caller said.Henderson's girlfriend—the girlfriend of Hall as well—told investigators she was devastated, and wished the fighting would end. It sickened her, she said. But she also recounted a fistfight she'd had with Henderson a few days earlier. "He punched me a couple times. I punched him a couple times. And that was that."Then she recounted a fistfight she'd had with several girls hours after the shooting, which left her with a concussion. "And I'm swinging, swinging, swinging. And all I know is I'm on the ground and I wake up and I'm in the ambulance...they kicked me unconscious, they stomped me."Finally, she recounted what she told a friend about the girls who beat her: "Tell those bitches it ain't over." And so it goes.randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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