By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The night after Kershaun picked up the guns, he drove around the Rollin' Sixties neighborhood with a few other Eight-Tray buddies, randomly firing at young men they spied on the street. Or, as Kershaun put it later for the cameras, in the melodramatic terms that make gang stories such a media staple: "Once the sun went down, the mission was in action . . . We started on our journey into enemy territory." The boy whom Kershaun eventually murdered was 14 or 15, his own age. Kershaun didn't even know him; he was just a figure spotted moving swiftly in the dark. As he passed, Kershaun leaned out the car window and "gave him both barrels of the 12-gauge shotgun that was not sawed off." The force of the explosion obliterated the boy's entire midsection. The murdered boy "wasn't necessarily the person who actually pulled the trigger on my brother," Kershaun said later to a film crew. ã He had no connection with the assault on Kody, at least none that would have been known to Kershaun, "but he was affiliated with that neighborhood, and that's just like getting the triggerman himself."
Avenging the attack on his brother landed Kershaun in Juvenile Hall for five and a half years. In all that time, his father never paid him a visit. He was able to see his brother, who was in and out of jail. Some members of Kershaun's gang set showed up, too, and back in the neighborhood, he was granted new respect for having risen to the challenge, proving himself a gunslinger and surrendering his freedom out of devotion to his brother. He had earned the right to the "Li'l Monster" label and claimed local-hero fame. As Kody wrote later of his brother's "taking the call to colors": "I was Li'l Bro's hero, the closest thing he had to total invincibility. Everything I did, he did. And now, with my being wounded, he knew that there was someone out there that was stronger, more determined than me. The vast weight of this fell heavy on his shoulders, and it became incumbent upon him to destroy that person and 'save the world' -- our set."
By then, Kody Scott had elevated himself to the status of original gangster, or O.G., which he regarded as the equivalent of general, and he saw his brother as a rising junior officer. "Each set actually functions like the different divisions of, say, the U.S. Army," he wrote. "Protecting" the set and "defending" a brother's honor were part of a comforting fiction that made the Scott brothers and fellow gang members feel like they were caught up in an old-fashioned, war-forged masculine operation based on valor, loyalty, care for each other and courage under fire. "Combat was starting to take its toll on me," Kody Scott wrote. "But still my dedication, my patriotism, was strong." The language he used was wholly martial: The Eight-Tray members were "combatants," "elite shooters," "troops steeled in the ways of urban guerrilla warfare." Being in South-Central was like being "'in country' -- in the war zone," and Normandie Avenue "can be compared to the Ho Chi Minh Trail." When his set unleashed an attack on a rival set, it was "launching a final offensive on the [Rollin'] Sixties -- our own little Tet offensive." The "well-seasoned veterans" in his set "could be compared to long-range reconnaissance patrol soldiers in Vietnam. There was nothing else for us but war, total war."
Despite Kody Scott's martial rhetoric (and despite the Los Angeles Police Department's fondness, especially at budget time, for portraying the gangs as highly organized conspiracies), L.A. gangs were distinctly unmilitary in structure, with loose hierarchies and an organization based on amorphous and changing notions like "respect" more than on specific functions. But if one had to use war as a metaphor for the gang strife in South-Central, the American experience in Vietnam was at least an apt point of comparison. The meaninglessness of turf gained, the pointless and horrific body counts, the arbitrariness of how one defined the "enemy," the toll on the young and innocent, the meaninglessness of "winning," all of these were hallmarks of both "wars," as Kody Scott understood quite keenly. "Sets began to predict the winners," he wrote, "a virtually impossible deed, as our war, like most gang wars, was not fought for territory or any specific goal other than the destruction of individuals, of human beings. The idea was to drop enough bodies, cause enough terror and suffering so that they'd come to their senses and realize that we were the wrong set to fuck with." The point of gang violence wasn't the one the "combatants" imagined, as Kody Scott hinted at when he suggested that the whole idea was to produce not real gains but just the imageof terror. In South-Central, it was truly a produced-for-television war.
The night that Kershaun Scott succeeded in killing one young man and wounding four more, his passage into manhood was not yet assured. One confirming proof yet remained. "I can remember hitting the corner and looking back and seeing all five people stretched out, and I knew the job had been well done," he recounted in the documentary film Eight-Tray Gangster: The Making of a Crip. It was well done because his opponents had not only been felled but were visible-- "at which point I went over to my girlfriend's house, sat back and watched the 11 o'clock news." To be a man under the new rules of showmanship required having the fruits of one's destructive acts ogled by an audience. Violence was not about defense or even aggression per se, but about glamour, albeit a gory glamour, which helped explain why it didn't really matter whether Kershaun Scott killed the real triggerman or not. In celebrity culture's approximation of revenge, a good visual, not a precise target or purpose, is the thing.
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