The 311 Boyz was a teen gang, in Las Vegas, Nevada, estimated at 140 members, who beginning in the summer of 2003 committed or were suspected of a number of violent acts ordered by the leader of the gang, Benjamin Allen Houser. In 2003, the gang consisted mostly of young males who attended Centennial High School and lived in affluent neighborhoods in northwest Las Vegas. Many members were considered to be "underground". The current status and membership of the gang is unknown, but gang signs and threats are still occasionally reported to Las Vegas police.
The group gained notoriety following an incident in July 2003. It was originally reported that this group of teenagers was a gang, and the media continued to use the term even when Judge Michael Cherry later determined the group did not fit the legal definition of a gang. At a party, three teens (Stephen Tanner Hansen, Joseph Grill, Craig Lefevre) in a pickup truck fled from the scene in fear of an altercation. A group of teens gave chase on foot and in other cars after the driver struck the vehicle of a teen boy who was punching the passenger of the pickup truck in the face. The pickup was rammed from behind at least once, and as it attempted to exit the housing subdivision, a gauntlet of teens threw bottles and rocks at the speeding vehicle. A softball-sized rock went through a window striking Hansen, one of the passengers, in the arm and head. Hansen survived: his arm was broken; his face was shattered, requiring metal plates to stabilize the bones; and his vision was permanently impaired in one eye. As he would later testify, he might have been killed if he hadn't raised his arm and partially deflected the rock.
Nine teens involved in the attack on the pickup would be charged with various criminal offenses, including attempted murder; the charges against one defendant were dropped before any trials. Of the remaining eight, five pleaded guilty to lesser felony charges, and accepted plea agreements where the prosecution would not seek additional jail time, but on 6 August 2004, District Judge Michael Cherry ignored the prosecution's recommendations and sentenced four of the defendants to a year in detention; the fifth defendant received probation. Two defendants would plead guilty to lesser charges and receive probation; the final defendant was acquitted at trial.
Police reports indicated that they suspected Steven Gazlay, one of the four who received jail time, of being the ringleader of the group. Soon after the charges were filed in the Hansen case, Gazlay was charged with a separate assault at a party in May 2003, where he assaulted another teen with a crowbar. A jury found him guilty in that case in December 2003. Gazlay was also accused of burning a teen with a red-hot knife and ramming a condominium gate, but as part of Gazlay's plea agreement, those charges were dismissed, and the crowbar assault verdict was set aside.
The ensuing police investigation would discover links between many of the defendants and at least nine assaults in the area, as well as video tapes of fighting between teenagers, taken by another teen.
Origin of name
Some research argues that the 311 Boyz phenomenon fits into Stanley Cohen's definition of a media induced moral panic, with specific reference to The Las Vegas Review-Journal's newspaper coverage of the 311 Boyz incidents. Excessive amounts of highly critical coverage by The Las Vegas Review-Journal may have created the appearance of an imminent danger to the community where little existed. High school boys involved in a violent altercation were presented by news coverage as a unique youth phenomenon and a dangerous new type of gang, one that was savagely and randomly attacking community members. The coverage seems to have employed the classic myth of the violent teen, similar to the Mods and Rockers, as well as a deviancy amplification spiral.
- reviewjournal.com - News: 311 Boyz
- "'311 Boyz' Shock Las Vegas". CBS News. 2003-10-02.
- reviewjournal.com - News: Teen left with devastating facial injuries
- reviewjournal.com - News: 311 BOYZ CASE: Hansen details attack
- reviewjournal.com - News: Judge sidesteps plea deals, sends 311 Boyz to jail
- reviewjournal.com - News: IN DEPTH: The face of the 311 Boyz
- reviewjournal.com - News: 311 BOYZ: Gazlay guilty in beating
- reviewjournal.com - News: 311 BOYZ: Teen enters into plea agreement
- reviewjournal.com - News: IN DEPTH: 311 BOYZ: Summer of violence
- reviewjournal.com - News: IN DEPTH: GIRL FIGHTS: FEMALES SAY THEY FOUGHT FO
- Folk Devils, moral panics, and the violent youth narrative: an analysis of the Las Vegas Review-Journal's coverage of the 311, by Stephan Hart Robley, M.A.
"'311 Boyz' Shock Las Vegas". CBS News/Associated Press. 2003-10-02. Retrieved 2006-09-25.
"Violent Amateur Videos On Rise". CBS News/CBS Broadcasting. 2003-11-19. Retrieved 2006-09-25. (note: story has incorrect date of 2002-11-19; should be 2003-11-19)