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08-16-06, 08:57 AM #1
Marines thought to be Crip members released, one missing
Marines thought to be Crip members released, one missing
(Richland) August 15, 2006 - Four Marines were arrested along with 14 other young men and boys after law enforcement got a tip about a gang meeting at Pine Grove Park Sunday night.
"They were probably the major focal point of this meeting," says gang investigator David Soto. Soto thinks they wanted to put their military experience to use in the plot, "You learn how to shoot, come in and move out. And those are things you also bring back to the general public. And these are things they'll also give the same training to their fellow gang members."
Officers of the Richland County Sheriff's Department arrested them on trespassing charges. The four Marines were later released on their own recognizance, and now one of them is missing.
The Marines are:
Private Carlos M. Downing, an aviation operations specialist, a member of MAG-31 Headquarters. He joined the Marine Corps in Sept. 2004.
Cpl. Jermel H. Matthias, an aircraft maintenance administrative specialist, a member of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2002.
Lance Cpl. Shavon J. Striggles, an aircraft maintenance administrative specialist, a member of VMFA(AW)-224. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2005.
Lance Cpl. Marcus O. Lofton, a food service specialist, is a member of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273. He joined the Marine Corps in Sept. 2005.
Matthias was also charged with unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon.
The Marines are currently being held at the Charleston Naval Brig. Downing is currently absent from the Air Station without authorization.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department has jurisdiction over the case and MAG-31 is working with the County to facilitate their investigation. MAG-31 is also conducting an investigation into the matter and will prosecute any suspected violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
It's scary, says Sheriff Leon Lott, "I don't know where they're loyalty would lie, to defending the United States, or to the Crips."
Investigators say it's not the first time there have been questions about gang members in the military. At Fort Jackson, Richland County deputies and the Army have a plan to try and prevent gang members from coming there. Army recruiter Gregory Craig says recruits get background checks and the Army uses a form to review possible gang tattoos. "Those people can be discharged right before basic training."
Recruits are also asked if they've been a gang member. Craig admits, "Yes, it's a possibility they could lie."
"I've known of instances that has occurred. They're immediately released and discharged from the United States Army."
As for concerns about other Marines involved with gangs, a release states: "The Marine Corps makes every effort to screen all applicants for criminal history and other indicators of tendencies to engage in unlawful behavior. We also only accept applicants who have demonstrated the character to obey the laws of the United States and uphold the high standards expected of all Marines.
"The Marine Corps does not tolerate or condone unlawful behavior. We are quick to respond, thoroughly investigate, and hold our service members accountable for their actions."
Reported by Jennifer Miskewicz
Updated 6:20pm by Chantelle Janelle
08-16-06, 09:06 AM #2
It has long been a theory of mine that gang bangers should be given marksmanship training, maybe even sniper school. Then, instead of doing drive-by shootings in which innocent children are gunned down, maybe the dumb SOB's could actually kill each other.
How many millions of dollars were spent on Tookie Whats-his-name? Way too many. Compared to the cost of a single sniper round from an opposing gang member, well, you do the math.
08-16-06, 09:06 AM #3
Posted on Wed, Aug. 16, 2006
Gang members planned fight at football game, sheriff says
10 adults, including 4 Marines, and eight juveniles, all believed to be Crips, arrested during meeting at old community center
By ISHMAEL TATE
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department says it foiled a plan by 18 gang members, including four U.S. Marines, to disrupt a Midlands high school football game.
The suspects, who met at a former community center at 937 Piney Woods Road, told deputies they were planning a fight at an Irmo high football game Friday, according to Lt. Chris Cowan, Richland County Sheriff’s department spokesman.
School officials were “mystified” to learn that Irmo was targeted, said Buddy Price, director of community services for the Lexington-Richland 5 school district, which includes Irmo.
That’s because on Friday, teams from Irmo, Chapin and Dutch Fork high schools will play in a Jamboree at Dorman High School in Spartanburg County. Irmo won’t have a home game until Sept. 1.
“Bottom line, there is no football game, never was a football game scheduled at Irmo High for Friday,” Price said.
Some of the suspects were students at Columbia High and St. Andrews Middle schools, Sheriff Leon Lott said in a Tuesday morning news conference. None attended Irmo High.
During a fight at an Irmo-Dutch Fork football game in 2003, police reported seeing people wearing Nations/Bloods clothing.
The Sheriff’s Department received a tip late Sunday that a gang meeting was under way at the former Pine Grove School.
Deputies arrested 10 adults and 8 juveniles, believed to be affiliated with the Crips gang, and charged them with trespassing, Cowan said. Other charges may be filed.
Those arrested with local addresses ranged in age from 13 to 18. The Marines were all stationed in Beaufort.
Piney Woods Road is a winding, single-lane road connecting Broad River and Piney Grove roads. It’s in an established neighborhood with a mix of older residents and younger families.
Wilbert Lewis and other concerned residents of Bonnie Forest, an adjacent community, formed the Bonnie Forest Citizens for Improvement 10 years ago in response to “evident signs” of gang activity.
“We believe we have a safer community when everyone knows each other,” he said.
Many of the local suspects, who all have been released, live in surrounding neighborhoods, Cowan said.
All four Marines are members of Marine Aircraft Group 31, headquartered at Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, and two are in the squadron, according to a statement released by the base’s public affairs office.
The Marines are:
• Cpl. Jermel H. Matthias, 22, who is also charged with unlawfully carrying a pistol
• Pvt. Carlos M. Downing, 20
• Lance Cpl. Marcus O. Lofton, 20
• Lance Cpl. Shavon J. Striggles, 20
After a pre-confinement evaluation at the air station, Matthias, Lofton and Striggles were sent Tuesday to the military jail in Charleston, where they will remain until further investigation, air station spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Kansteiner said.
Deciding when a Marine is confined to a military jail after being accused of violating civilian or military laws depends on the evidence and charges in the case, she said.
“The Marine Corps always takes into account the seriousness of the crime,” Kansteiner said.
Downing did return to the air station with the three other Marines after all four were picked up in Columbia by fellow Marines from the air station upon their release Monday, Kansteiner said.
At the base, the four were restricted to their individual unit’s building and placed under observation by the unit duty officer, she said. However, Downing “willfully disobeyed orders and broke his restriction,” Kansteiner said, declining to elaborate on how he left his building.
Downing was arrested by Beaufort County authorities late Tuesday.
The Pine Grove School was built in 1923 and is the last of 15 Rosenwald Schools for black children to be built in Richland County, said Cynthia Robinson, public information officer for the Richland County Recreation Commission.
The school has been boarded up and its power turned off since the commission built the new community center next door.
She said the building’s locks will be strengthened and surveillance increased.
Reach Tate (803) 771-8549.Beaufort Gazette contributed
08-18-06, 06:45 AM #4
Law enforcement logging in as gangs use the internet
WIStv, Columbia, SC
(August 16, 2006 - Law enforcement calls it "web banging," and the Richland County Sheriff's Department says it was the key to the connection between a group of Midlands Crips and four US Marines stationed in Beaufort.
From his home in Chapin, Bob Walker uses the internet to spread the word about gangs. Walker is a former Border Patrol and DEA agent. In the mid-90s, he set up a computerized system to track gangs for the state Department of Corrections. Walker's website, "Gangs OR Us," has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since he started it in 1999.
Walker tells WIS, "We need to train parents and teachers as to what to look for when it comes to their children and their students."
But gangs have figured out how to use the net to their own advantage. Authorities say 17-year-old Kenneth Parnell McLain, known as "KP," used the website MySpace.com to contact a Crips leader in Florida.
That leader in turn told Marine Lance Corporal Shavon Striggles in Beaufort to check out the young recruits in the Bonnie Forest area of Richland County. Striggles is known by the nickname "Bullet."
Striggles and three other Marines, all Crips, traveled to the Midlands to meet with 14 young men at the Old Pine Grove School last Sunday. That meeting was raided by sheriff's deputies - who arrested all 18 on trespassing charges.
The four Marines were returned to the Low Country. Three are currently being held at the brig in Charleston. A Marine spokeswoman says Private Carlos Downing will be transferred to Charleston on Thursday. Downing briefly escaped military custody following his arrest in Richland County. He was arrested Tuesday night by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department on a charge of marijuana possession.
Richland County gang investigator Sgt. David Soto tells News 10 Sunday's meeting now appears to have been set up to "validate" or determine whether the younger men were truly Crips. Soto says the recruits would be asked to perform some sort of act as a test. He says that might have included anything from shoplifting to a drive-by shooting or a burglary.
On Tuesday, authorities said one of the suspects believed the meeting was called to plan an attack or fight at an Irmo High School football game.
Two of the Marines have MySpace profiles, still active Wednesday. Striggles' page was still posted but not accessible to outsiders. Corporal Jermel Matthias' page shows him in combat gear. Richland County's charges against Matthias include possession of a .45 caliber handgun, which deputies say he identified as his during his arrest.
At least two younger gang members had their own profiles. One tells visitors to "surrender yourself to my evilness and face your fate. You die now."
Walker advises officers to keep their computers on, "A good Sheriff's Department, if they're worth their salaries, then they're digging into MySpace and looking for whatever they can come up with, because it is a gold mine, really."
The new challenge for law enforcement is monitoring gangs in cyberspace as well as on the streets.
“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”
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