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Police: Raleigh gang problem 'significant'

Posted July 28, 2008
Updated October 12, 2011

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— Two days after hundreds of youths at a Raleigh mall joined in a melee that police described as gang-related, Police Chief Harry Dolan said the city has a "significant" gang problem that requires a community response.

The brawl began Saturday night inside Triangle Town Center and involved as many as 300 people, police said. A 15-year-old was stabbed, and a police officer injured his leg in the incident, but neither injury was considered serious.

Police charged seven people in the case: Darryl Anthony Bobbitt, 18; Tyrell Eugene Brantley, 18; Christopher James Gamble, 17; Laquavis Oneal Jordan, 16; Javonnie Nicholson, 16; Ricky Ladd Williams, 16; and a 15-year-old whose identity they withheld.

Dolan said officers in the mall saw gang signs being flashed and recognized groups involved in the initial skirmishes as being affiliated with gangs. As the incident escalated into a riot inside and outside the mall, officers worked quickly with other law enforcement agencies to quell the riot and evacuate the mall, he said.

"The gang issue in Raleigh is significant," he said during a Monday afternoon news conference. "Like many other parts of the country, particularly very dynamically growing parts of the country, we have an issue with gangs, and we're working diligently to respond to that."

Wake and Durham counties are sharing in a $2.5 million federal grant to combat gang activity, and Wake County also received $1.4 million from the state – Durham got $1.2 million – to fight gangs.

The extra resources will help the Raleigh Police Department in its anti-gang efforts, Dolan said, but he added that the community needs to work together to address the problem.

More work needs to be done to keep teens in school and to dissuade them from pursuing a gang lifestyle, he said.

"This burden cannot rest on the officers on the beat alone," he said. "We all have to work together – education, clergy, community."

Raleigh police met with Triangle Town Center managers Monday to discuss increasing security there, Dolan said. Mall managers declined to comment on any changes being considered in response to Saturday's incident.

"It's safe to be at the mall," Dolan said. "It's going to be even (safer) as a result of this."

It's unclear whether anybody else will be charged in the case, he said.

Meanwhile, the six teens charged as adults made their first court appearances Monday. They were each charged with inciting a riot, and some also faced charges ranging from second-degree trespassing to assault on a law enforcement officer.

Gamble, who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the stabbing, was being held in the Wake County Jail under a $35,000 bond. 

Brantley was being held on a $5,000 bond.

Williams, who was on probation from an earlier robbery case, was placed on 24-hour house arrest.

Jordan, Nicholson and Bobbit were out of jail Monday evening.

Some of the teens' parents disputed the suggestion that their children were involved in gangs.

"I know my son didn't stab anybody. He's more passive than I can explain," said Beverly Coley, Gamble's mother.

"She is in no way related to any type of gang or anything like that," Della Nicholson said of her daughter. "This is what they do on a regular basis on Saturdays – they go to the mall."

But Javonnie Nicholson said her most recent trip to the mall was anything but regular.

"It looked like a war. Everybody was fighting everybody, slamming each other, stabbing each other," she said.

Recent legislation signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley increases the punishment for crimes committed by gang members. Lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget to pay for the anti-gang measure.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • rargos Jul 29, 2008

    "How do you convince a group of thugs who care nothing about decency to act decent?"

    Simple : lock them up. They may or may not learn to "act decent", but they certainly won't be causing any more trouble on the streets.

  • mulvay8888 Jul 29, 2008

    Start charging gang members as domestic terrorists. This will make it a federal crime and instead of getting a slap on the wrist, these gang members can spend some time in Federal Prison.

  • Raliman Jul 29, 2008

    Yes we do have a gang problem no one wants top admit it.
    Provide better security and have under ages removed from the mall at certain times. May be if we send some of these gangs to boot camp for 2 months will give them plenty to think about.

  • whatusay Jul 29, 2008

    Bohican...dream on...bury your head in the sand...

  • iamforjustice Jul 29, 2008

    I don't really think that this is a gang problem as the public perceives it to be. It is just a bunch of kids that needs serious guidance that got together and things got out of control. They just need to be talked to. Love them and they will be alright. Let's don't make this bigger than what it really is. Pray for them and hope they learned their lesson.

  • whatusay Jul 29, 2008

    A little too late for this accessment. The people in Raleigh and Durham have known for years that gangs were a problem. The Raleigh police has denied the problem for too long, and now it is out of control.

  • Bohican Jul 29, 2008

    I have read numerous posts regarding the lack of arrests with 300 people fighting. Please remember that the number one priority in that situation is not making arrests. It is preventing death and injuries. Most if the initial officers are off duty officers that do not utilize their patrol cars. Where are they going to put people they have arrested? Sit them down, hand cuffed only to be attacked by rival parties on scene?? It is short sighted to critize the lack of arrests because every person arrested becomes the responsibility of the arresting officer. This includes their personal safety and welfare. Success or good outcome should be measure by the number of people not involved in the incident that were injured and the amount of property damaged as a result of the incident. If you look at that, you find that even with 300 people fighting the outcome was acceptable. No innocent by standers injured, minimum property damage and a bad scene diffused. How about a thank you?

  • newwake Jul 29, 2008

    You can blame society, parents, whoever....but the reality of it is these kids do not care about anything but themselves. they have to be dealt with harshly. We need to quit being so afraid and weak and deal with the problem. You almost have to beat the mess out of one of these gangbangers to get their attention...Im surely not condoning that but I'm just being realistic. They have to be reached on their level....whit, black, hispanic it doesnt matter....a thug is a thug is a thug....etc.

  • foetine Jul 29, 2008

    they aren't homeless people downtown - merely people who used to work for Wachovia.

  • newwake Jul 29, 2008

    I think they refer to it as a riot because it fits the definition in NC statute. Although not as significant as historical riots....it is what it is.