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Police: Raleigh gang problem 'significant'

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.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.


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