Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stanley Williams

Stanley Tookie Williams III (December 29, 1953 – December 13, 2005) was the co-founder of the Crips, a notorious American street gang which had its roots in South Central Los Angeles in 1969. In 1979 he was convicted of four murders committed in the course of robberies, sentenced to death, and eventually executed. In his later life, he authored several books, including anti-gang and anti-violence literature and children's books.

Williams refused to help police investigate his gang, and was implicated in attacks on guards and women, as well as multiple escape plots. In 1993, Williams began making changes in his behavior, and became an anti-gang activist while on Death Row in California. He renounced his gang affiliation and apologized for his role in founding the Crips. He also co-wrote children's books and participated in efforts intended to prevent youths from joining gangs. A biographical TV-movie entitled Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story was made in 2004, and featured Jamie Foxx as Williams.

On December 13, 2005, Williams was executed by lethal injection after clemency and a four-week stay of execution were both rejected by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, amidst debate over the death penalty and whether Williams' anti-gang advocacy in prison represented genuine atonement for his crimes or was just a way to escape execution. Williams was the second inmate in California to be executed in 2005.

Seventeen year-old Stanley Williams was approached by Raymond Washington in the spring of 1971, at Washington Preparatory High School. Washington was from the East Side of South Central, while Williams was from the West Side of that area. A mutual friend of both young men informed Washington of Williams' toughness and his willingness to fight members of larger, more established street gangs like the L.A. Brims and the Chain Gang (both gangs would later become Bloods setts; The Brims and The Inglewood Family Bloods respectively). According to Williams' account of his initial meeting with Washington, what struck him about Washington was that, besides being incredibly muscular, Washington and his cohort were dressed similar to Williams and his clique (leather jackets with starched Levi's jeans and suspenders). They formed an alliance known first as the "Cribs," later changed to "Crips." (Ray Washington was killed in August 1979; his funeral took place on his birthday). Because Williams had befriended so many clique leaders and street toughs on the West Side, these leaders in turn rallied their members at Williams' behest and formed what would become the West Side Crips.

The purpose for creating the gang initially was to eliminate all street gangs and create a "bull force" neighborhood watch. Williams said: "We started out—at least my intent was to, in a sense, address all of the so-called neighboring gangs in the area and to put, in a sense—I thought 'I can cleanse the neighborhood of all these, you know, marauding gangs.' But I was totally wrong. And eventually, we morphed into the monster we were addressing." Washington himself has stated that he founded the Crips not with the intention of eliminating other gangs, but to create a force powerful enough to protect local black people from racism, corruption and brutality at the hands of the police.

At the time of the Crips' initial formation there were only three Crip sets: Washington's East Side Crips (later called East Coast Crips), Williams' West Side Crips and the Compton Crips, led by a teenager named Mac Thomas. Washington, Williams and Thomas went on an aggressive and violent recruitment campaign throughout the Black ghettos of Los Angeles. They challenged the leaders of other gangs to one-on-one street fights. Many gang leaders and their members acquiesed and joined the Crips. The few gangs that resisted would later form the alliance known as the Bloods, and would become the Crips' fiercest rivals.

As leader of the West Side Crips Williams became the archetype of the new wave of Los Angeles gang members. Williams had become incredibly muscular as a result of his intense bodybuilding regimen and never missed an opportunity to display his physique, either in street fights or at social events like concerts or the annual Watts Fest. Williams' violent exploits as a gang leader were just as legendary as his huge biceps. With his best friend and "enforcer" Curtis "Buddha" Morrow, Willliams would engage in random acts of violence against rival gang members and innocent people alike, striking fear in both street criminals and the residents of South Central, Watts and Compton. Perhaps what made his exploits even more legendary was the fact that on numerous occasions the criminal charges that were filed against him never stuck.

As other leaders of the Crips were either incarcerated or killed (in 1973 Raymond Washington was arrested for 2nd degree robbery and sentenced to five years in prison in Tracy, California, Curtis "Buddha" Morrow was shot to death in South Central L.A. in February 1973 after a petty argument, Mack Thomas was murdered under mysterious circumstances in the mid 1970's ), Williams was regarded as the leader of the Crips. Around this time Williams lived a dual life as a gang leader and a youth counselor in Compton, even studying Sociology at Compton College; despite this, he spent his free time gangbanging and participated in numerous violent attacks against the Bloods.

In 1976, Williams was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Compton by Bloods members, when several Bloods gang members opened fire on him from a moving car while he was sitting on the front porch of his house. Attempting to avoid getting hit, Williams was shot in both legs as he dove from the porch. Doctors told him that he wouldn't be able to walk again, but Williams began a nearly year-long rehabilitation process of physical therapy and an intense workout regimen; ultimately, he regained his ability to walk.

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