In a September hip-hop video that touts the violent exploits of the Rollin’ 90s Neighborhood Crips and its gangland allies, an MC warns, “Shoot a n—— then stand by and watch his body shake.”
If cops and prosecutors are to be believed, this isn't the fantastic boasting of gangster rap's past but rather a grim description of reality along South Western Avenue in South Los Angeles, where the Rollin’ 90s wage warfare against the Eight Tray Gangster Crips.
It was on Eight Tray turf that 21-year-old Justin Alongino Holmes was fatally gunned down, at Western and 78th Street, before noon on Oct. 1. The alleged involvement of a rich, white teen member, 18-year-old Cameron Terrell, has generated national headlines for a gang that has been around since the 1970s.
“I think this is an anomaly,” says Capt. Peter Whittingham, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Criminal Gang Homicide Division. “This is a case where you have a youngster who made friends and, for whatever reason, his friends turned out to be bad guys.”
Terrell, who's from the gilded community of Palos Verdes Estates, was charged with suspicion of murder and premeditated attempted murder. Prosecutors added enhancement allegations that he participated in the murder to benefit the Rollin’ 90s, according to the criminal complaint. Unlike two co-defendants who, as juveniles, remain unnamed, Terrell is free following the posting of $5 million bail. Police alleged Terrell was the getaway driver and, as such, say he can be prosecuted the same as if he pulled the trigger.
Cops say the suspects walked up to Holmes and two other people on the street and asked where they were from before shots rang out. The victim was wounded in his back, according to the coroner's report. “Neither Holmes or his friends were involved in gang activity,” LAPD said in a statement.
It's not clear how Terrell became involved in the gang. While there are multiracial gangs, experts say, this isn't necessarily one of them. It's a historically African-American gang that claims turf in the 90s streets along Western Avenue. Jesse Owens Park is ground zero for the set.
It's part of a “Rollin’” neighborhood alliance, according to a working paper from Santa Monica think tank Rand, that has been responsible for more homicides than any other alliance. However, gang expert Alex Alonso, a professor of Chicano and Latino studies at Cal State Long Beach, says that could be an apples-and-oranges comparison because so many gangs are covered under the Rollin’ umbrella and because, he argues, the Rollin’ 60s Neighborhood Crips, an ally, are by far the most murderous set in South L.A.
The 60s have also been at war with the Eight Trays, a gang with significant history in Los Angeles. It was the gang where Sanyika Shakur, aka Monster Kody Scott, author of Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, earned his nickname. Three of its members were accused in the beating of truck driver Reginald Denny during the riots of 1992.
In the September music video, titled “NH Anthem” (below with NSFW lyrics), Rollin' 90s Neighborhood Crips and allies, who claim turf “from the 30s to the 100s,” diss Eight Tray rivals as “tramps.” One MC says, “Little n—— with a big ass gun / That's why the tramps see me they're going to run Forrest run.”
“The gang they're dissing in the song is the same gang they're targeting in the [Terrell] case,” Alonso says. “The music video could become evidence in the trial, though I would be on the side of it being irrelevant.”
Terrell could see life in prison if he's successfully prosecuted.
LAPD's Whittingham says that while this case is getting a lot of attention for its rich, white suspect, he's more concerned with the everyday violence that happens in the department's South Bureau.
“I don't see a lot of whites and other colors coming to shoot our youngsters,” he says. “We're fooling ourselves and being hypocritical if we don't look inside our own community to see that most of the homicides in the bureau have killers and victims who are young black men. We need to get our resources to bear and stop this nonsense.”