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Social media is changing street-gang culture, fueling violence

CHICAGO – Lamanta Reese lived a large part of his gang life in the virtual reality, the posting of videos on YouTube of him and others to challenge rivals. He died at the age of 19 in the real world, bleeding from his head on a porch on Chicago’s South Side after one of those gang rivals, prosecutors say, shot him 11 times. Another possible factor in his killing: A smiley-face emoji Reese placed that the suspected shooter may have interpreted as a slight on his mother.

Gangs’ embrace of social media to goad enemies or conceal the drug trafficking in emoji-laden text is the biggest change in the way in which gangs operate in comparison with 10 years ago, according to the new law enforcement of the provided data exclusively for The Associated Press for his release Tuesday by the Chicago Crime Commission. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites have radically changed the gang culture in Chicago. They have a similar influence on the gangs in the whole country.

These days, there is almost always a link between an outbreak of gang violence and something online, said Rodney Phillips, a gang-conflict mediator works in the low-income Englewood neighborhood where Reese lived and died. As he learns latent tensions have spilled into violence, that he no longer goes first to the streets.

“I Google it,” Phillips said. “I look on YouTube and Facebook. Today, that is how you follow the trail of a conflict.”

Asked what led to his son’s death, Reese’s father, William Reese, answered immediately: “Something on the internet.” He said that his son and Quinton “ManMan” Ports, later charged with first-degree murder in the killing, had to trade barbs on Facebook.

Updated gang cards also be released in a Chicago Crime Commission Gang Book graph on the turf of 59 gangs, Reese’s Black Disciples on the lesser-known Krazy started Guys. They illustrate how gangs have splintered into smaller, less disciplined parties are quicker to violence. The last Gang Book is used as a guide by the regional police — was published in 2012.

Gangs put a premium on retaliation for the perceived lack of respect. In the past, insults rarely spread outside of the block. Now, they are broadcast via social media to thousands in an instant.

“If you respected at that level, you feel you have to act,” said Phillips, who works at target area, a non-profit group that tries to defuse gang conflicts.

Reese, whose nickname Taedoe, was fertile on Twitter, the places of 28,000 tweets under the handle @taedoeDaShoota. He appears to be cocky, but he was also introspective, tweeting about his chances to die a violent death. One of his last tweets read: “Death Must Be Easy Because Life is Hard.” It contained a sad face emoji.

The police say that there is a gang connection with most of the 650 murders in Chicago included in 2017 more in Los Angeles and New York City together. Murders so far in 2018, down about 20 percent. The police partially credit better intelligence and the deployment of police officers to neighborhoods on the birthdays of the gang-murders.

Such an essential part of social media spin dynamics in Englewood-area pastor Corey Brooks brokered a truce between the factions of the Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples in 2016, he insisted that they agree to refrain from posting taunts. The gang truce lasted longer than most — 18 months.

Some gangs provoke enemy gangs by means of streaming live video in which they walk through rival turf. Others face off with using a split-screen feature on Facebook Live and hurl abuse at each other.

Chicago gangs maximize attention with videos of himself performing an aggressive hip-hop called drill rap. Reese was among a gang of rappers. In a video posted before he died, he and his gang are waving guns, flash gang signs and curse, sing, “They want war? We’re gonna give ’em war.”

The Black Students’ historical enemies, the Gangster Disciples and the Mickey cobras. But the authorities say that the 19-year-old Gates was a fellow Black Disciple, but of a different faction. Gates’ Mac Block is on Halsted Street from Reese’s faction, the so-called LoweLife. Each controls four square blocks.

The Chicago Crime Commission materials list with more than 2,000 gang factions. Successful prosecutions in the 1990s on the gang bosses, who held street soldiers to check-in, left power vacuums filled by small cliques led by young people eager to get away.

Another Objective mediator, Michael Nash, who regularly speaks with the Mac and LoweLife factions, said Reese, and Ports were ever friends. He said both were nice.

William Reese says that his son always urged his gang to not resort to violence. He said that his son acted loving to his brothers and sisters. And, he added, “He had a beautiful smile.”

It is not entirely clear why there is a fall, Nash said. But Gates felt ignored by one Reese post on Facebook before the shooting. Another person made an off-color remark about Gates’ mother. Reese’s response? A smiley-face emoji.

“Without social media, maybe Taedoe goes, ‘Ha, ha,’ and that is as far as it goes,” Phillips said. “With social media, everyone sees it. Social media is the gasoline that fuels violence.”

The authorities say that if Reese was sitting on a terrace with his cousins in the twilight, in May 2017, Fences, crawled, cursed LoweLife and dismissed, on Reese’s in the head, the abdomen and the groin. A cousin cradled Reese when he died. Posts for Gates’ lawyer were not returned.

Now social media helps to have reminders of Reese’s life. A memorial Facebook page for him, with an edited photo of Reese with angels wings. His father posted a message with 14-crying-face emojis, adding: “I miss my son.”

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter https://twitter.com/mtarm

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