ASK police in Lawton if Fort Sill has a gang problem, and the answer is a definite yes. Ask the Army, and the answer is just as definitely no. So, who to believe?
In a story Sunday, The Oklahoman’s Ron Jackson wrote about Army men who police say are also known gang members. Balderdash, the Fort Sill brass exclaimed one day later. Jackson noted the case of Spc. Gregory Darnell King, a reservist who served with the 177th Field Artillery. In an image collected by the Lawton gang unit, King can be seen flashing a sign affiliated with a national gang that has members in Lawton. The story detailed how King has been arrested six times in the past two years by Lawton police on various complaints, including drug possession. Jackson reported on the death of a soldier, suspected of being a member of the notorious Blood gang, who was killed in a gang-related argument outside a Lawton nightclub. Certainly, these are just two men of thousands who serve — and do so admirably — at Fort Sill. But the case built by the Lawton police about gang-related problems linked directly to the post is pretty strong. The man who heads up the police gang task force, Lt. Darnell Southerland, said flatly, "People don’t want to face the truth, but it’s true. Fort Sill has a problem with gangs.” The post’s leadership begs to differ. On Monday, a high-ranking officer issued a statement that said Southerland’s information was "completely inaccurate and totally outdated,” and that no soldier had been arrested or implicated in gang activity in the past year.