Bristol, Va., police dealing with gang-related beatings, robbery, arson

by Lewis Loflin

Also see Morristown Bristol police tracking gangs, gang members traced to Hispanics-Blacks.

Bristol, Va., police say suspects accused in a robbery and two beatings are believed to be involved in a locally formed street gang.

Police launched an investigation of several male and female, adult and juvenile suspects believed to have formed a local street gang after receiving information from the Criminal Intelligence Unit/Gang Task Force, according to a press release.

Two men, a woman, and two male juveniles have been charged in connection with a May 19 robbery and beating of one man and a second beating two days later of another man who told police he was lured from his home and beaten by several individuals carrying large sticks and glass bottles, the release said.

The victim of the robbery suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, while the victim in the second incident suffered severe injuries and received treatment at Bristol Regional Medical Center, according to the release.

Michael Ray Clark, 20, 401 Oakview Ave., Apt. 434, Bristol, Va., and Bobby L. Lawhorne, 19, 1120 Anderson St., Apt. 1, Bristol, Tenn., each are charged with gang participation in criminal act committed with a juvenile, conspiracy to commit burglary, wearing a mask in a public place to hide identity, criminal street gang participation within 1000 feet of a school, malicious wounding, petit larceny, assault and battery.

Lawhorne remains in the Bristol, Va., jail without bond. Clark is to be extradited from Sullivan County, Tenn., and is set for an Aug. 7 appearance in General District Court.

Ruby Reyes, 24, 401 Oakview Ave., Apt. 448, Bristol, Va., was charged only with criminal street gang participation within 1000 feet of a school, wearing a mask in a public place to hide identity and malicious wounding. She remains jailed on $25,000 bond and is also set for an Aug. 7 appearance in court.

Two male juveniles, one from Bristol, Va., and one from Bristol, Tenn., have also been charged and are being processed through the Highlands Juvenile Detention Center in Bristol, Va. Their court dates had not been set as of Friday afternoon.

Kingsport Times-News June 20th, 2008

Gene Perrin, an assistant district attorney in Sullivan County, Tenn., remembers a decade-old murder in detail, but hesitates to discuss it, because, he said, it was very painful for the community. The 1997 gang-related shooting of a teenage boy sent shock waves through the community and sparked public action against criminal street gangs. Less than a month after the murder, Perrin rounded up others committed to running gangs out of Bristol and began a task force that still operates today.

According to Perrin, Bristol has one gang and that is one gang too many. "Any gang presence is a gang problem. You don't have to look far to see that our youth are at more and more of an increasing risk to participate in dangerous activities, whether it's alcohol abuse or drug abuse or criminal activities, including gangs," he said.

Bristol gang activity made headlines 2009 again when two teenage girls (13 and 17) were accused of going into the Kroger Store during the evening rush May 21. Police said they walked to the hairspray aisle and set it on fire. Six weeks after the blaze, police announced that the arson is believed to be part of an elaborate gang initiation. They claim this is some "Bloods" initiation. Ref BHC July 19, 2009.

Bristol needs straight talk about potential gang problems

On July 30, 2006 Andrea Hopkins wrote the following:

Bristol isn't the sort of town where a triple stabbing is a routine event. So when three men were stabbed last weekend near Clear Creek, an upscale golf course neighborhood on the Virginia side, alarm bells rang...THAT POLICE would speak that word - "gang" - is remarkable.

In the past, local officials have twisted themselves up like pretzels and tortured the English language in an effort to deny that gangs exist in Bristol. Bristol doesn't have gangs, they said, a decade ago. The groups of teenagers and 20-somethings involved in violent crimes, drug-dealing and miscellaneous thuggery were described as "wannabes" or loosely organized or homegrown - anything to avoid calling them what they were: criminal gangs. It took an alarming escalation of violence to shake the Twin City from its complacency.

There were shootings, beatings, armed confrontations between gang members and police, robberies and vandalism. Two teenagers with gang affiliations died violently. A police dog was killed in a shoot-out. The instigators of much of this misery were members of a homegrown gang, who took the name Outkasts in homage to a popular rap group. They even branded their flesh with the letter K inside the letter O. A RIVAL group, calling itself the West Side Crypts (perhaps a misspelling of the name of the national gang, the Crips), also emerged.

Just because they claimed to be linked to national gangs means nothing. The crime is generated within the community because of the self-inflicted behavior of certain groups continues to be ignored. The disproportionate number of blacks and growing criminal Hispanic populations need to be seen as arising within their communities, not the result of being victims of racism. The 70% of black children born out of wedlock have black fathers.

It's also easy to claim gangs for public officials to qualify for government grants.