Police fear Fort Sill is home to gang woes

BY RON JACKSON Published: November 9, 2008
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photo - Men identified by Lawton police as Fort Sill soldiers flash gang signs in a photo from a social networking Web site. PHOTO Provided by Lawton Police
Men identified by Lawton police as Fort Sill soldiers flash gang signs in a photo from a social networking Web site. PHOTO Provided by Lawton Police
LAWTON — Soldiers such as Spc. Gregory Darnell King II are emerging as a new kind of face at Fort Sill — a face police claim many high-ranking military officers won’t acknowledge, let alone talk about.

Lawton police identified King as a "known gang member.”

And police say he is one of many who are either stationed at or have passed through Fort Sill.

"People don’t want to face the truth, but it’s true,” said Lt. Darrell Southerland, a 20-year veteran who oversees Lawton’s Gang Task Force Unit. "Fort Sill has a problem with gangs. We see it every Friday and Saturday nights on the streets. But nobody wants to listen.”

Southerland thinks it’s time for Fort Sill to hear his pleas. But Fort Sill spokesman Jon Long contends: "No evidence of a widespread gang problem involving Fort Sill soldiers has been presented to Fort Sill by the LPD (Lawton Police Department) or city officials.”

In a recent interview with the post newspaper, "The Cannoneer,” Special Agent Jessica Jasper of Fort Sill’s Criminal Investigation Command said: "In the last calendar year, the CID and MPI have not worked any gang-related offenses on post. ... We’ve not been called to respond to any of those concerns.”

Southerland said his six-member unit has routinely gathered and shared evidence with post officials about gang membership among soldiers stationed at Fort Sill.

Evidence was obtained from traffic stops and arrests and includes photographs of gang-related tattoos and details from informants.

On Web sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, local soldiers post pictures of themselves flashing gang signs.

Growing concerns

The gang unit has a binder stuffed with such photographs, images spokesman Long says "is not proof that the person pictured is actually a gang member.”

In one image, King — a reservist who served with the 177th Field Artillery — can be seen flashing a sign affiliated with the 107 Hoover Crips, a nationwide gang known to have members in Lawton.

Since 2006, King has been arrested six times by Lawton police on complaints ranging from drug possession to driving with loaded firearms. King was last arrested Sept. 25 for not paying his court fines.

Investigators list his gang affiliation as "107 Hoover” and occupation as "SPC-E4.”

"I told them about King,” Southerland said. "I was told, ‘Look, this guy is a hero. He pulled someone out of a burning Humvee in Iraq, and we’re not touching him.’ What are you gonna do?”

King could not be reached for comment.

In January, soldiers David Coleman and Ira Easterling — suspected Blood gang members stationed at Fort Sill — engaged in a deadly clash outside a Lawton nightclub with suspected civilian gang member Ronald Walker of the 107 Hoovers, Southerland said.