Gang presence in the United States military

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About one to two percent of United States Armed Forces members are estimated to belong to criminal gangs in the United States, a much higher proportion than in the civilian population.


In 2008, according to FBI gang investigator Jennifer Simon, 1 to 2% of the U.S. military belonged to gangs, which is 50 to 100 times the rate in the general population.[1] According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the NGIC identified members of more than 53 gangs who served in the military.[2] U.S. gangs have sometimes encouraged their members to join the military in order to learn warfare techniques.[3]

The FBI’s 2007 report on gang membership in the military stated that the military's recruit screening process is ineffective, and allows gang members/extremists to enter the military. The report listed at least eight instances in the previous three years in which gang members obtained military weapons for their own use.[4]

The report "Gang Activity in the U.S. Armed Forces Increasing", dated January 12, 2007, stated that street gangs including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hells Angels, Latin Kings, The 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Mexican Mafia, Norteños, Sureños, and Vice Lords have been documented on military installations both domestic and international, although recruiting gang members violates military regulations.[5]

Notable cases[edit]

White power skinheads[edit]

In 1995, Malcolm Wright Jr. and James N. Burmeister were charged in the murder of an African American couple in North Carolina. Wright and Burmeister were in the U.S. Army, and part of Fort Bragg's 82 Airborne Division. Wright and Burmeister were both arrested at a trailer park where police found a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, a Nazi flag, white supremacist pamphlets, and other gang paraphernalia. Both men were sentenced to life in prison.[6][7][8][9]

Former Skinhead T.J. Leyden was in the U.S. Marines. He spent 15 years in the Skinhead movement before renouncing racism, and going to work as a consultant for Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.[10]

Gangster Disciples[edit]

On July 3, 2005, gang members from Gangster Disciples killed U.S. Army Sergeant Juwan Johnson in the small town of Hohenecken near Ramstein, Germany. Prosecutors accused Airman Rico Williams of throwing the first punch in a six-minute beating that Sergeant Johnson had to endure to join the gang. When Sergeant Johnson asked one of his fellow gang members to take him to the hospital, Williams was then consulted and ordered that gang member to not take him there. Sergeant Johnson later died from multiple blunt-force trauma. According to the government's investigations, Airman Rico Williams was the leader of the gang and was sentenced to 22 years in prison, while other servicemen faced other sentences ranging from 2 to 12 years in prison.[11][12][13]


January 9, 2005, Officer Sam Ryno was first to respond to a call of a man with a gun in front of George's Liquors. Andres Raya, a U.S. Marine on leave after coming back from Iraq, was armed with an SKS rifle and opened fire on officers, hitting Officer Ryno and killing Sergeant Stevenson. Raya was shot dead some time later after he opened fire on SWAT team members.[14]

Portrayed by local media as a calculated attack on law enforcement, the Stevenson slaying sparked attention from the national media which suggested that Raya snapped due to his experience in the Iraq War.[15] Family, friends, and fellow Marines close to Raya spoke of Raya's violent nightmares and distress which led to heavy drinking and drug use while on leave. However, local law enforcement officials claimed Raya had been involved in gangs for years prior to him signing up for military service. Modesto authorities discovered information during the investigation into the shooting that shows Raya was a Norteño gang member who was not involved in combat during his tour of duty in Iraq. A cooperative effort between the Stanislaus Sheriff's Detectives, local law enforcement, the FBI, NCIS, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Marine Corps revealed a large amount of information about Raya in a short amount of time.[16][17]

King Cobra Boys[edit]

In July 2000 in Orange County, California, members of the King Cobra Boys gang engaged in a fight with a rival gang named Lao Family. One of the King Cobra Boys gang members was in the U.S. Marines. He was stationed at MCAS Camp Pendleton. He worked in the Marines armory, and was experienced with weapons. Using his military training, he arranged his gang members in a location where they were able to observe and ambush the rival gang members. No one was fatally injured. Authorities later arrested the U.S. Marine gang member on base. A search warrant was executed at his residence where numerous military-issued manuals for machine guns and handguns were seized.[18][19]

Gang graffiti in Iraq[edit]

U.S. gang-related graffiti has shown up in Iraq since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Among the largest American street gangs represented in Iraq are the Gangster Disciples, Crips, Bloods, 18th Street, Norteños, Black Disciples, Sureños, Latin Kings, TAP Boyz, Tiny Rascal Gang, Vice Lords, and Black P. Stones, which originated in some of America's most violent and impoverished neighborhoods.[20][21] There are also reports of African Nations, Aryan Nations, Aryan Brotherhood and Ku Klux Klan gang graffiti in Iraq.[22]

Reported gangs[edit]

The gangs present in the US military include:[2]


  1. ^ "Military Daily News -".
  2. ^ a b "2011 National Gang Threat Assessment". Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  3. ^ "2011 National Gang Threat Assessment". FBI. February 9, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2017. Some gangs, particularly OMGs, actively recruit members with military training or advise members without criminal records to join the military for necessary weapons and combat training.
  4. ^ Stars and Stripes - Army defends recruit screening process
  5. ^ [1] - Gang-Related Activity in the US Armed Forces Increasing Archived August 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Ex-soldier, jailed for racial killings". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Ex-G.I. at Fort Bragg Is Convicted in Killing of 2 Blacks". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Three white soldiers charged in killings of black couple". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Another Soldier Convicted in Race-Based Killings". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Former Skinhead T.J. Leyden Tells His Story". Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Airman convicted of murder in 2005 Gangster Disciples initiation death". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Former Air Force Airman Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison For Murder of Army Sergeant in Germany". Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Rico Williams sentenced to 22 years in 2005 slaying". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  14. ^ Finz, Stacy; Stannard, Matthew B. "Police shoot Marine dead after local sergeant is slain / Liquor store's video surveillance camera recorded shootout" from San Francisco Chronicle (January 11, 2005)
  15. ^ Tempest, Rone. "Marine's Fatal Rampage Divides Grieving Town" from The New York Times (January 14, 2005)
  16. ^ New Information About Andres Raya and His Gang Affiliation Archived 2015-02-03 at the Wayback Machine, press release from City of Ceres (January 14, 2005)
  17. ^ "Why Andres Raya Snapped". 20 January 2005.
  18. ^ "Gang members in the Military" (PDF). CDoJ. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Gang activity in the U.S. Military". Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  20. ^ Gangs claim their turf in Iraq, Chicago Sun-Times, May 1, 2006
  21. ^ "Military-Trained Gang Members Worry Police". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. Archived from the original on 2011-08-04. Retrieved 2006-06-04.
  22. ^ "Select an installation profile" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-11.

External links[edit]