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Experts warn of gang violence

By Ken Raymond Published: August 15, 2004
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David Pekah was asleep, face-down on a love seat in the living room of his home, when the bullet punched through the window and struck him in the chest.

He never awoke.


SUNDAY, AUGUST 15, 2004
Experts warn of gang violence
Police and community team to calm gang battles
Trouble is part of gangster life

SUMMER 2003 SERIES
City faces growing gang problem

The 9-year-old boy's death early Wednesday left a family in tears, a community angry and a city reminded once again of the senseless horror of gang violence.

Some fear the shooting is only the start.

"Something is going to happen. When, we don't know yet," said Rey Madrid of the Eagle Ridge Institute, a nonprofit agency with programs for at-risk youth.

Madrid and others point to a suspected gang killing in April, increased graffiti and heavy gang recruitment as possible signs that gang fighting is brewing.

Last summer, Hispanic gang vendettas accounted for as many as 10 of Oklahoma City's homicides. This year, the body count has been substantially lower, but police have worried that anything could shatter the fragile peace.

"Something as simple as a legitimate automobile accident between members of two different sets could start it up," said Oklahoma City police Capt. Billy Pratt, who oversees gang investigations. "It could be that a banger walks by with his girlfriend and somebody from another set throws a sign at him. ... Something like that."

Wednesday, that violence erupted in a firestorm of bullets, pouring from a black car into the pale blue house where David lay sleeping. Two women inside were injured, one critically, and police arrested three gang members a short time later.

The drive-by shooting occurred in an area a rival gang set claims.

David's mother, Margie Diaz, said she thinks her son -- though uninvolved in gangs -- was killed in retaliation for an earlier shooting.

"It's a problem with the gangbangers," Diaz said.

But as her son's death proves, it's a problem for everyone.

Continued gang presence
According to the gang unit, Oklahoma City is home to at least 88 confirmed gang "sets" -- splinter groups of the original Crips and the Bloods.

Different sets can share the same blanket affiliation -- they may call themselves Crips -- yet not get along with each other. In fact, police said, confrontations over territory, perceived disrespect and money-making enterprises are common between sets of the same gang.

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