Last December, as a deputy was patrolling Unit 4 of the Weld County Jail in Greeley, Colo., he picked up some interesting chatter between two inmates. They were planning a pizza party.
Most of the talk was coming from Billie Allen, a 32-year-old from Cañon City, Colo., whose face and neck were swirled with tattoos. At the time, he was facing 17 charges from three active criminal investigations, including felony weapons possession to drug possession, according to the Greeley Tribune.
As the deputy listened in, Allen reportedly ranted about how the county’s district attorney, Michael Rourke, was overcharging him. Citing recently released court documents, the Tribune reports Allen allegedly boasted he was planning a pizza party for Rourke. Cryptically, he said it would happen at 2:11 a.m.
“I’m going to make sure something happens,” Allen told his fellow inmate, as the deputy listened in. “I’m going to make sure I have a pizza delivered to him. He’s going to get that f------ pizza.”
The talk about pizza parties and timing may have sounded trivial to unaccustomed ears, but law enforcement in Colorado knew to listen closely for the coded subtext in Allen’s talk. He was allegedly a member of a violent white supremacist prison gang called the 211 Crew. In 2013, the gang had shocked the country when a recently paroled member, posing as a pizza delivery man, killed a Colorado prison official.
Prosecutors now believe Allen was concocting a similar fatal attack for Rourke. According to the Associated Press, last week Allen was charged with solicitation of first-degree murder, in part thanks to investigators’ hunch that the “pizza party” Allen was planning would end in bloodshed.
The gang’s origin stems from the violent racial divisions splitting most American lockups.
According to the Denver Post, in 1994, Benjamin Davis was being held in a Denver-area jail while he awaited a criminal case to go forward on robbery charges. The Post reported that Davis was put into a cellblock for violent offenders, where he was one of only five white inmates housed with 60 African Americans. Davis was reportedly jumped by two African American inmates, who beat him with a sock stuffed with bars of soap.
The attack left Davis with both a broken jaw and the realization that white prisoners needed to band together to protect themselves.
“His perception was that the Hispanic jail population and the African-American jail population were well enough organized that they could protect each other against assault or homicide attempts by other race members,” a psychologist wrote in court documents, according to the Denver Post. “He became convinced that if he was going to make it in prison, he would need to organize enough people of similar beliefs that they could protect each other from the Black and Hispanic gangs.”
The 211 Crew, which takes its name from the California penal code number for robbery, was initially a ruse. Sentenced to 30 years for robbery in the mid-1990s, Davis and three other white inmates scrawled “211 Crew” with bars of soap across jailhouse walls to create the impression the gang boasted a large number of members.
But reality soon outpaced the fantasy, with other white members asking Davis and his associates to join the gang. According to the Denver Post, the 211 Crew began incorporating Irish, Viking and Nazi symbols into their identity. By 2005, the state believed the gang had 300 inmates.
A 2011 report by Denver Westword dove into the gang’s daily activities. 211 Crew members raped and attacked gay inmates and sex offenders and demanded payment from other white prisoners as tributes for living under their protection.
“All of these people were paying rent and being beaten,” a former inmate told Westword. “If you were smaller, or suspected of being gay, or a pretty-boy type — anything of that sort got back to them.”
Gang members who were released were expected to make money with drugs and weapons trafficking, and then to funnel the proceeds back to members still in prison.
“The expectation of this gang was clearly once you affiliated with this organization you would remain affiliated, and our information clearly indicated that breaking from them could result in retaliatory violence,” a law enforcement official told the Denver Post in 2005.
In 2007, Davis and other members of the gang’s leadership were convicted of racketeering, assault, conspiracy and solicitation to commit assault, leading to 108 years total in prison. (Davis later committed suicide while incarcerated in 2017).
But the 211 Crew’s violence continued. In early 2013, an alleged 211 member named Evan Ebel was accidentally paroled early from prison after serving a six-year sentence for felony menacing, robbery and assault.
According to the Denver Post, in March 2013, Ebel is believed to have killed a Domino’s pizza delivery man in Golden, Colo. for his company jacket. Two days later, Ebel, posing as a pizza delivery man, knocked on the door of Tom Clements, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Ebel opened fire, killing the 58-year-old Clements, and fled.
Ebel, 28, was killed two days later in a shootout with Texas police. Due to his death, investigators have never established whether Clements’s execution was ordered by 211 Crew higher-ups.
Authorities now allege Allen was similarly hoping to stoke fear and elevate his own status within his gang when he plotted the prosecutor’s death.
According to the Greeley Tribune, Allen was planning to coordinate with another inmate who would soon be released from the Weld County Jail for Rourke’s pizza party. Investigators also learned that Allen had reportedly said if he could not arrange for the attack, he planned to bite the prosecutor’s face on the first day of his upcoming trial, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 11.
Murdering the prosecutor, Allen believed, would scare off other district attorneys from pursuing long prison sentences for 211 Crew members. Now, if convicted of plotting the attack, Allen faces up to an additional 24 years in prison.
He is scheduled to appear before a judge on June 18.
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