Southerland’s unit has logged more than 1,600 gang members from the Lawton/Fort Sill community based on arrests, tattoos, photographs, and informants.
A large number of those positively identified as gang members are soldiers, Southerland said. The lieutenant also noted a gang shooting outside a Lawton nightclub as recent as January in which one man — a soldier — died. Southerland said the victim was a Blood gang member.
"Is there a problem with gangs?” Purcell said. "I would agree. They (Fort Sill officials) never said there wasn’t a problem, but it’s not on the scale reported.”
City councilman Randy Warren rode with the gang task force one night last winter.
"We made four different gang-related stops — two were military,” Warren said. "One guy had a 9 mm automatic pistol on him with a clip between his legs. He was flying his gang colors.
"The other guy was stopped in a Walmart parking lot. He had an Army ID and a loaded pistol. They took off his shirt. He had gang tattoos all over, and they took pictures for their files.”
Warren said he hopes something positive will come out of Southerland’s warnings.
"I don’t for one minute think they (Fort Sill officials) don’t want to fix the problem,” Warren said. "I just don’t think they are structured to fix the problem. For one thing, you’re dealing with a chain of command. How much of this stuff on the street level ever gets up the chain of command?”