Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tookie's "Legacy"

Suffice it to say, society is better off with the departure of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, co-founder of the notorious "Crips" street gang. After 24 years on California's Death Row, Williams was executed early today for the 1979 murders of four individuals.

While Tookie proclaimed his innocence until the end, but police and prosecutors say there was little doubt about his guilt. Court testimony indicates that Williams even mocked the final, desparate gurgling sounds made by one of his victims, 26-year-old Albert Owens, after shooting him at point-blank range with a shotgun. Owens was a clerk in a 7-11 convenience store that Williams robbed in February 1979. The Crips leader was also found guilty of killing three members of the Yang family at their Los Angeles-area motel in March of that year.

Williams's execution may provide a semblance of justice to the Owens and Yang families, but there is no comfort in his lasting legacy--today's gang culture and the rampant crime that accompanies it. According to one estimate, there are at least 12,000 Crips members in Southern California alone, with thousands more in other cities and towns across America. Various Crips gangs are heavily involved in the crack cocaine trade (and other criminal enterprises), and have staged violent wars with rival factions. In one year alone, there were almost 300 gang-related slayings in Southern California, many of them in inner-city neighborhoods dominated by the Crips and other gangs. Culturally, the Crips and their counterparts have provided "inspiration" for the gangta lifestyle glorified by rap artists, and elements of the hip-hop lifestyle.

The legacy of Stanley "Tookie" Williams is dark, violent and odious. And sadly, the problems and social pathologies that he helped create will survive long after he is forgotten.

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