Monday, December 12, 2005

Tookie: founder, co-founder or just a member?

Stanley "Tookie" Williams, scheduled to be executed tonight, is usually referred to as "co-founder of the Crips," but that description isn't universal.

NPR: "Williams joins the Crips street gang, already formed by high school friend Raymond Washington."
L.A. Times: "Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang, has become an international figure"
AP: "Williams founded Los Angeles' violent Crips street gang."

From what I can tell, it was Raymond Washington who founded the group, and by 1969 it had morphed into the Crips. All the accounts I've seen that include a date have Williams joining in 1971. Can you be a founder two years after the fact?

A Reuters story explains:
Experts say the convicted killer and his supporters have also overstated his role in founding the gang -- which has a reputation for violent rivalries with other gangs -- as a way of emphasizing his claim of redemption.

"Actually, everybody but Tookie gives Raymond Washington credit for starting (the Crips)," said Malcolm Klein, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Southern California who has studied gangs since 1962.

"Instead of founding the gang, which is what Tookie claims, what you're really talking about is emerging as a dominant figure," Klein told Reuters. ...

"The Crips were already well established when Tookie came on the scene," said retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. and gang expert Wes McBride.

"(That he created the Crips) is part of his mystique that his supporters are using to try get him commuted. It gives him a stature as an anti-hero kind of person that has now turned his life around."


At 2:29 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

This just in: Apparently Tookie is his middle name, not a nickname. (Even his eponymous Web site, however, sometimes uses the quotes.)

At 1:56 PM, December 20, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

I'd been wondering about that; good to know.


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