Thursday, March 22, 2012

Raymond Washington

Raymond Lee Washington (August 14, 1953 – August 9, 1979) was the original founder of the South Central Los Angeles street gang the Crips.

Washington is believed to have initially formed the Baby Avenues street gang, which became the Avenue Cribs before the name evolved into the Crips, because he wanted to form a gang that could protect their territory in South Central and prevent criminal and more violent gangs outside the territory.

He disliked firearms and knives, and believed that fist fighting and hand-to-hand combat was the most effective way to resolve differences. By the time of his death, however, his influence on the gang had diminished and firearms had become widely used. Washington was murdered in South Central Los Angeles on August 9, 1979, and the murder has remained unsolved.

Washington was born in Los Angeles, California, the youngest of four sons to Violet Samuel and Reginald Washington. He had three older brothers and one younger half-brother, Derard S. Barton, conceived from his mother's second marriage. His parents separated when he was two years old, and Washington was raised by his mother and stepfather on East 76th Street, between Wadsworth and Central Avenues in South Los Angeles.

Youth crime in and around Watts escalated dramatically in the late 1960s, especially in the three housing projects known as the Bricks: Imperial Courts, Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs. Violent street robberies were common among adolescent criminals. Older street gangs like the Slausons, the Businessmen, and the Gladiators, had been ended by activist groups such as the Black Panther Party and the US Organization (Us). Numerous gangs began to form among the youth that rejected the old gang names. Some of the names of these new gangs were Sportsmans Park, New House Boys, Acey Duecy, and Chain Gang.

In late 1969, 16-year-old Washington organized a group of other neighborhood youths in the South Central district of Los Angeles and formed a gang called the Baby Avenues. The Baby Avenues wanted to emulate a gang of older youths called the Avenue Boys. The Avenue Boys, whose territory was on Central Avenue in the east side of South Central, had been involved in gang activity since 1964. The Baby Avenues then began using the name Avenue Cribs.

Washington was the best fighter in the Avenue Cribs and was feared by his fellow gang members. However, it has been stated by co-founder Stanley Williams that before the gang became a haven for violence, they had hoped to create a gang that could secure the area that he and his friends lived in, in order to eliminate more dangerous gangs.

By 1971, crips and the use of the word "Crip" had taken the place of the gang's name. Meanwhile, Washington and his young gang members influenced other area gangs resulting in the formation of many Crip sets. Some of these sets included the Avalon Gardens Crips, the Eastside Crips, the Inglewood Crips, and the Westside Crips, which was formed by Stanley Williams.

The Crips remain one of the largest and most notorious gangs in the United States. They have been involved in robberies, drug dealing, and murder. What was once a single gang is now a loose network of individual gangs around the country. Crip gangs are known to have an intense and bitter rivalry with the Bloods gang, as well as many racial wars with some Chicano gangs.

With the rise of media coverage, which put these new violent gangs on the front page, soon many disaffected black youths were running to join the Crips, many without ever being contacted by gang leaders.

It has been stated that while Washington hated guns, he believed in the idea of street gangs, fighting and robbery, but only whenever necessary. This is mainly what led to his notorious reputation, since he, Williams, and other Crips felt an increasing need to steal food, money and clothing to survive in the poverty-stricken areas of South Central Los Angeles. When new and aspiring Crip members began acting out of control of their leaders and committing homicides, it solidified Washington and the gang's reputation among the Los Angeles Police Department as notorious.

In 1973, Washington was arrested for 2nd degree robbery and sentenced to five years at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California. Washington would become the first Crip incarcerated at Deuel. While incarcerated at Deuel Washington began to recruit young African American inmates into the Crips, much to the disapproval of established black prison groups like the Black Muslims and the Black Guerilla Family (also known as the BGF). According to a former inmate who was housed at Deuel with Washington the Black Muslims and the BGF, aware of the spread of the Crips in Los Angeles, warned Washington that they weren't going to tolerate a formation of the Crips in the prison.

Washington was faced with another problem while serving time at Deuel: as the Crips murdered rival gang members on the streets of Los Angeles inmates at Deuel who were relatives of some of the victims held Washington responsible for their deaths. According to Washington's friend and Crips co-founder Greg "Batman" Davis, "People in the prisons was losing their loved ones on the streets and because Raymond was the founder of the Crips, they blamed him for it. And since Raymond was the only Crip up there (at Deuel) at the time, they were trying to kill him."

When Washington was released from prison in the late 1970s he returned to Los Angeles and discovered that the war between the Crips and the Bloods had escalated to the point where gunplay, as opposed to fist fighting, was now the norm. Washington, who by many accounts hated guns, was furious and implored Crips gang members to abandon the use of firearms to settle disputes. However because the murder rate in the black ghettos of L.A. continued to increase as the Crips' rivals used guns regularly, Washington's demand went ignored.

Eventually Washington became disillusioned with the Crips as the gang committed more heinous and senseless crimes as new recruits to the gang sought to build their reputations. According to law enforcement and former gang members Washington started to distance himself from the Crips. Ultimately Washington decided that the Crips needed to be brought back under one umbrella organization (as many new "sets" were formed after Washington and others went to jail). According to close friends, Washington wanted to return the Crips to one unified organization, stop fighting amongst the gang and then work towards a truce with the Bloods. Apparently this didn't sit well with some gang members and proved to be a fatal move for Washington. Washington was shot dead at the age of 25 when he walked up to a car on the corner of 64th and San Pedro Streets in Los Angeles. At the time of his death, Washington no longer had any real control over the gang he originally founded. He wanted to unite warring gangs in peace and had always opposed guns. Different theories exist on why he was killed and who did it but no one was ever arrested for his murder.

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