Guns, Emojis a Volatile Mix as Gangs Embrace Social Media - NBC 7 San Diego
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Guns, Emojis a Volatile Mix as Gangs Embrace Social Media



    5 Falltacular Ways to Connect With Your Family
    A frame from video posted on YouTube on Oct. 27, 2016, in which a member of one of Chicago gangs was filmed walking into the territory of another gang with a gun in his hand. New law enforcement materials compiled by the Chicago Crime Commission say the embrace of social media by gangs to taunt rivals is the biggest change in how gangs operate compared with 10 years ago. (YouTube via AP)

    Lamanta Reese lived much of his gang life in virtual reality, posting videos on YouTube of him and others taunting rivals. He died at age 19 in the real world, bleeding from his head onto a porch on Chicago's South Side after one of those gang rivals, prosecutors say, shot him 11 times. Another possible factor in his slaying: A smiley-face emoji Reese posted that the suspected gunman may have interpreted as a slight about his mom.

    Gangs' embrace of social media to goad foes or conceal drug dealing in emoji-laden text is the biggest change in how gangs operate compared with 10 years ago, according to new law enforcement data provided exclusively to The Associated Press ahead of its release Tuesday by the Chicago Crime Commission. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites have radically altered gang culture in Chicago. They are having a similar influence on gangs nationwide.

    These days, there is nearly always a link between an outbreak of gang violence and something online, said Rodney Phillips, a gang-conflict mediator working in the low-income Englewood neighborhood where Reese lived and died. When he learns simmering tensions have spilled into violence, he no longer goes first to the streets.

    "I Google it," Phillips said. "I look on YouTube and Facebook. Today, that's how you follow the trail of a conflict."

    Death Toll, Damages Climb From Typhoon Hagibis

    [NATL] Death Toll, Damages Climb From Typhoon Hagibis

    The death toll from Typhoon Hagibis climbed to 53 on Tuesday, days after it tore through Japan and left hundreds of thousands of homes wrecked, flooded or out of power. Hagibis caused more than 200 rivers to overflow when it hit the island nation on Saturday.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    Asked what led to his son's death, Reese's father, William Reese, answered promptly: "Something on the internet." He said his son and Quinton "ManMan" Gates, later charged with first-degree murder in the killing, had been trading barbs on Facebook.

    Updated gang maps also being released in a Chicago Crime Commission Gang Book chart the turf of 59 gangs, from Reese's Black Disciples to the lesser-known Krazy Get Down Boys. They illustrate how gangs have splintered into smaller, less disciplined factions quicker to resort to violence. The last Gang Book — used as a guide by regional police — was published in 2012.

    Gangs put a premium on retaliation for perceived disrespect. In the past, insults rarely spread beyond the block. Now, they're broadcast via social media to thousands in an instant.

    "If you're disrespected on that level, you feel you have to act," said Phillips, employed with Target Area, a nonprofit group that seeks to defuse gang conflicts.

    Reese, whose nickname was Taedoe, was prolific on Twitter, posting 28,000 tweets under the handle @taedoeDaShoota. He displayed bravado but was also introspective, tweeting about his odds of dying a violent death. One of his last tweets read: "Death Gotta Be Easy Because Life is Hard." It included a sad-face emoji.

    Police say there was a gang connection to most of the 650 homicides in Chicago recorded in 2017 — more than in Los Angeles and New York City combined. Homicides so far in 2018 are down around 20 percent. Police partly credit better intelligence and the deployment of officers to neighborhoods on the anniversaries of gang killings.

    Quadruple Murder Suspect Brings Body to Police Station

    [NATL] Quadruple Murder Suspect Brings Body to Police Station

    A Roseville, California, man is in custody after he turned himself in to police in connection to a quadruple homicide.  The body of one of his victims was in the car he drove to the police station in Mount Shasta, more than 200 miles away from the original Roseville crime scene.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    So integral is social media to gang dynamics that when Englewood-area pastor Corey Brooks brokered a truce between factions of the Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples in 2016, he insisted they agree to refrain from posting taunts. The gang truce lasted longer than most — 18 months.

    Some gangs provoke enemy gangs by streaming live video showing them walking through rival turf. Others face off using a split-screen function on Facebook Live and hurl abuse at each other.

    Chicago gangs maximize attention with videos of themselves performing an aggressive hip-hop called drill rap. Reese was among his gang's rappers. In a video posted before he died, he and his gang brandish guns, flash gang signs and curse, singing, "They want war? We're gonna give 'em war."

    The Black Disciples' historic enemies include the Gangster Disciples and Micky Cobras. But authorities say 19-year-old Gates was a fellow Black Disciple but from a different faction. Gates' Mac Block is across Halsted Street from Reese's faction, called LoweLife. Each controls four square blocks.

    The Chicago Crime Commission materials list more than 2,000 gang factions. Successful prosecutions in the 1990s of gang bosses, who kept street soldiers in check, left power vacuums filled by small cliques led by younger people eager to break away.

    Another Target Area mediator, Michael Nash, who speaks regularly with the Mac and LoweLife factions, said Reese and Gates were once friends. He said both were likable.

    Taco Bell Recalls 2.3 Million Pounds of Ground Beef

    [NATL] Taco Bell Recalls 2.3 Million Pounds of Ground Beef

    Taco Bell has voluntarily recalled 2.3 million pounds of seasoned ground beef that originated at Kenosha Beef International in Columbus, Ohio, because of possible contamination with metal shavings. The USDA says there have been no confirmed reports of any adverse reaction.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    William Reese says his son always urged his gang not to resort to violence. He said his son acted lovingly toward his siblings. And, he added, "He had a beautiful smile."

    It's not entirely clear why there was a falling out, Nash said. But Gates felt disrespected by one Reese posting on Facebook before the shooting. Another person made an off-color comment about Gates' mother. Reese's response? A smiley-face emoji.

    "Without social media, maybe Taedoe goes, 'Ha, ha,' and that's as far as it goes," Phillips said. "With social media, everyone sees it. Social media is gasoline that fuels violence."

    Authorities say that as Reese sat on a porch with his cousins at dusk in May 2017, Gates crept up, cursed LoweLife and fired, hitting Reese's in the head, abdomen and groin. One cousin cradled Reese as he died. Messages for Gates' lawyer weren't returned.

    Now social media helps keep memories of Reese alive. A memorial Facebook page for him includes an edited photo of Reese with angels' wings. His dad posted a message with 14 crying-face emojis, adding: "I miss my son."