Youth Gang Reflects Shift In Origins, Membership
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Residents along Bel Pre Road just west of Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County were complaining to police last week about youths throwing ice chunks at cars and stealing fire extinguishers. By last Saturday, police say, the group had graduated to greater violence: Three people were stabbed, two critically.
Now, 11 members of the gang, including a 12-year-old, face multiple charges, including attempted first-degree murder in a double stabbing at the Wheaton Metro Station and another knifing at an Aspen Hill apartment complex on Bel Pre Road in which a 31-year-old mentally challenged man was wounded.
Officer Robert Musser, Montgomery's top gang investigator, said yesterday that the group's membership reflects a growing trend in area gangs: They are mixed-race, loosely organized collections of youths that coalesce because they attend the same school or live in the same neighborhood. The groups often change their monikers several times, he said.
The Hot Boyz/Shoot 'Em Up gang, suspected of being involved in the stabbings Saturday, has been on investigators' radar for about 14 months, Musser said. Officers were first tipped to its existence after its graffiti began appearing in the community. Musser said there are about 18 members ranging in age from 12 to 17, most of them black.
A law enforcement source who asked not to be identified because the case is open said that although some members have been charged with crimes in the past, the stabbings are the most serious offenses to which the group has been linked.
A police source, who also asked to remain anonymous, said there may be additional arrests in connection with the Metro station assault.
Parents of four of the teenagers and an attorney for a fifth said that their boys are not troublemakers or gang members and that police are overreacting. Some said they had not been able to see or speak to the boys.
Dumisani "D.J." Tembo, 17, was standing outside the apartment complex on Bel Pre Road on Saturday with a few friends waiting to pick up another boy who lived there, said his attorney, Hope Umana.
"We're talking about a situation where there were at least 25 people," Umana said. "In any 25 people that you point to, there's a possibility that two or three people are bad people."
Umana defended Tembo, saying: "He's a good student. He participates fully in church. He comes from a God-fearing family."
Memunatu Turay, mother of 17-year-old Alansan Turay, a sophomore at Wheaton High School who is charged in both stabbings, said she didn't know why her son was out that night but thinks he was "at the wrong time at the wrong place."
"I'm a strict mother, and he's a good boy," she said.