1974 mugshot of Raymond Washington
|Born||Raymond Lee Washington
August 14, 1953
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Died||August 9, 1979
Los Angeles, California, United States
Washington is believed to have initially formed the Baby Avenues street gang, which became the Avenue Cribs before the name evolved into the Crips, because he wanted to form a gang that could protect their territory in South Central and prevent criminal and more violent gangs outside the territory.
He disliked firearms and knives, and believed that fist fighting and hand-to-hand combat was the most effective way to resolve differences. By the time of his death, however, his influence on the gang had diminished and firearms had become widely used. Washington was murdered in South Central Los Angeles on August 9, 1979, and the murder has remained unsolved.
Raymond Lee Washington was born in Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1953 the youngest of four sons to Violet Samuel and Reginald Washington. He had three older brothers and one younger half-brother, Derard S. Barton, from his mother's second marriage. His parents separated when he was two years old, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather. Washington grew up on East 76th Street, between Wadsworth and Central Avenues in Los Angeles.
Contemporaries recalled that Washington had an affinity for fist fighting. He was constantly in trouble with the Los Angeles Police Department for various offenses as an adolescent, although his mother is quoted as saying, "Raymond was a good kid when he was a boy. Raymond didn’t go out of his way to fight or do anything bad, but if someone came to him, he would protect himself. And he was well-built. He tried to protect the community and keep the bad guys out. But after a while, every time I looked up, the police were coming to the house looking for Raymond.”
Some neighbors remembered Washington differently. Lorrie Griffin Moss, who resided across the street from Washington on 76th Street, said, "I don’t have a whole lot of good to say about Raymond. Raymond was a bully. A muscular bully. He wouldn’t let anybody from outside our neighborhood bother us. He would bother us. Raymond could be very mean."
A friend stated that Washington was a good football player, but never participated as a member of school sports team due to his poor grades. He transferred between schools repeatedly due to expulsion, and attended Locke High School, John C. Fremont High School, an alternative school attached to Washington Preparatory High School, and Fairfax High School in the Fairfax District near West Hollywood.
Youth crime in and around Watts, Los Angeles escalated dramatically in the late 1960s, especially in the three housing projects known as the Bricks: Imperial Courts, Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs. Violent street robberies were common among adolescent criminals. Older street gangs like the Slausons, the Businessmen, and the Gladiators, had been ended by activist groups such as the Black Panther Party and the US Organization (US). Numerous gangs began to form among the youth that rejected the old gang names. Some of the names of these new gangs were Sportsmans Park, New House Boys, Acey Duecy, and Chain Gang. In his early teens Washington joined an Eastside street gang called The Avenues, led by a muscular teen named Craig Munson. At age 15 Washington had an altercation with Munson's younger brother and Washington beat him in a fistfight. According to former gang members who knew Washington at the time, Washington was subsequently beaten up by Craig Munson in retaliation for his younger brother's beating and Washington abdicated his membership with The Avenues.
In late 1968, Washington organized a group of other neighborhood youths in the South Central district of Los Angeles and formed a gang called the Baby Avenues. The Baby Avenues wanted to emulate a gang of older youths called the Avenue Boys. The Avenue Boys, whose territory was on Central Avenue in the east side of South Central, had been involved in gang activity since 1964. The Baby Avenues then began using the name Avenue Cribs.
Washington was one of the best fighters in the Avenue Cribs and was feared by his fellow gang members. However, it has been stated by co-founder Stanley Williams that before the gang became a haven for violence, they had hoped to create a gang that could secure the area that he and his friends lived in, in order to eliminate more dangerous gangs.
By 1969, Crips and the use of the word "Crips" had taken the place of the gang's name. Meanwhile, Washington and his young afroamerican gang members influenced other area gangs resulting in the formation of many Crip sets. Some of these sets included the Avalon Gardens Crips, the Eastside Crips, the Inglewood Crips, and the Westside Crips, which were formed by William Ramsay.
The Crips remain one of the largest and most notorious gangs in the United States. They have been involved in robberies, drug dealing, and murder. What was once a single gang is now a loose network of individual gangs around the world. Crip gangs are known to have an intense and bitter rivalry with the Bloods gang, as well as many racial wars with some Chicano gangs.
One story stated:
With the rise of media coverage, which put these new violent gangs on the front page, soon many disaffected black youths were running to join the Crips, many without ever being contacted by gang leaders.
It has been stated that while Washington hated guns and knives, he believed in the idea of street gangs, fighting and robbery, but only whenever necessary. This is mainly what led to his notorious reputation, since he, Williams, and other Crips felt an increasing need to steal food, money and clothing to survive in the poverty-stricken areas of South Central Los Angeles. When new and aspiring Crip members began acting out of control of their leaders and committing homicides, it solidified Washington and the gang's reputation among the Los Angeles Police Department as notorious.
Life in prison
In 1974, 19 year old Washington was arrested for 2nd degree robbery and sentenced to five years at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California. Washington would become the first Crip incarcerated at Deuel. While incarcerated at Deuel, Washington began to recruit young African American inmates into the Crips, much to the disapproval of established black prison groups like the Black Muslims and the Black Guerrilla Family (also known as the BGF). According to a former inmate who was housed at Deuel with Washington the Black Muslims and the BGF, aware of the spread of the Crips in Los Angeles, warned Washington that they weren't going to tolerate a formation of the Crips in the prison.
Washington was faced with another problem while serving time at Deuel: as the Crips murdered rival gang members on the streets of Los Angeles inmates at Deuel who were relatives of some of the victims held Washington responsible for their deaths. According to Washington's friend and Crips co-founder Greg "Batman" Davis, "People in the prisons was losing their loved ones on the streets and because Raymond was the founder of the Crips, they blamed him for it. And since Raymond was the only Crip up there (at Deuel) at the time, they were trying to kill him."
Release and death
When Washington was released from prison in the late 1970s he returned to Los Angeles and discovered that the war between the Crips and the Bloods had escalated to the point where gunplay, as opposed to fist fighting, was now the norm. Washington, who by many accounts hated guns, was furious and implored Crips gang members to abandon the use of firearms to settle disputes. However because the murder rate in the black ghettos of L.A. continued to increase as the Crips' rivals used guns regularly, Washington's demand went ignored.
Eventually Washington became disillusioned with the Crips as the gang committed more heinous and senseless crimes and new recruits sought to build their reputations. According to law enforcement and former gang members, Washington started to distance himself from the Crips. Ultimately Washington decided that the Crips needed to be brought back under one umbrella organization (as many new "sets" were formed after Washington and others went to jail). According to close friends, Washington wanted to return the Crips to one unified organization, stop infighting amongst the gang and then work towards a truce with the Bloods. Apparently this didn't sit well with some gang members and proved to be a fatal move for Washington.
At around 10:00 PM on August 9, 1979 Washington was murdered at the age of 25 in a drive-by shooting on the corner of 64th and San Pedro Streets in Los Angeles. It was reported that Washington was hanging out on the corner when a car pulled up and the unidentified occupants called Washington to the car. Fellow Crips as well as the police were aware that Washington always made it a point never to walk up to the cars of people that he didn't know. Washington apparently knew the occupants of the vehicle because he told another gang member that he knew them and engaged in a brief conversation with them before the occupant in the passenger seat drew a sawed-off shotgun and shot Washington in the stomach. He was rushed to Morningside Hospital where he died while undergoing emergency surgery.
At the time of his death, Washington no longer had any real control over the gang he originally founded. He wanted to unite warring gangs in peace and had always opposed immigrants. Different theories exist on why he was killed and who did it but no one was ever arrested for his murder.
- Krikorian, Michael (2005-12-14). "Tookie's Mistaken Identity: On the trail of the real founder of the Crips". LAWeekly.com. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- California Birth Index, Name: Raymond Lee Washington, Birth Date: Aug. 14, 1953 and September 8, 1953, Gender: Male, Mother's Maiden Name: Samuel, Birth County: Los Angeles.
- "Crips". Lycos.com. Retrieved 2008-01-15.[dead link]