Streetgangs Escalate Violence; Latest Weapons

By Paul Anderson, Metro Correspondent

Chicago, IL, October 22, 1994 -- As if multiple hits by a 7.62mm AK-47 or high-capacity 9mm handgun aren't enough to worry about, emergency responders in several cities are being warned of a serious escalation in violence being perpetrated by streetgang members. Several recent incidents have warned of new and more dangerous hazards on the streets of America.

According to Clark Staten, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Emergency Response & Research Institute, the escalation is marked by the introduction of modern and fearsome weapons that have only been used by professional terrorists and the military in the past. The first tactic that is reportedly being used by streetgangs in Chicago, St. Louis, and elsewhere, is the use of "Molotov Cocktails", or fire bombs, as a weapon of revenge.

Staten said that at least two instances can be documented in the Chicago area in recent weeks, and that a similar incident occurred on the Southside of St. Louis last Thursday. One incident, in Chicago, took the life of a innocent 4-year-old boy, when a firebomb was thrown through the window at 743 W. 103rd on Chicago's far Southside. Eleven (11) other children and five (5) adults barely escaped the flames generated by the molotov cocktail. The suspect, a reputed streetgang member, remains at large.

Other unconfirmed reports of gang-related firebombings have been received from both New York and Los Angeles, and ENN is currently gathering additional information to further corroborate this devastating phenomena. In each case, flaming gasoline bottles have been thrown through windows, in the residences of rival gang members or enemies of the gang involved.

A second set of circumstances is more troublesome than the use of "firebombs", Staten said in an interview on Saturday. It involves the use of M72A2 LAW Anti-tank rockets against police stations. According to the Chicago Police Department, five streetgang members have been arrested, when they attempted to purchase the sophisticated military hardware from a federal undercover agent. The gang members were also charged with conspiracy to blow up an area-wide police headquarters, located at Kedzie and Harrison on Chicago's Westside.

Court indictments and police sources said that Angelo Roberts, a known street gang leader, had verbally "declared war" on the police district; allegedly because they were interfering in "gang business". Roberts was taped, earlier this year, in a conversation with a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) undercover informant. During the conversation, he allegedly asked for a LAW rocket launcher and several automatic assault rifles. Police sources say that another member of the same gang, Alvin Finney, actually met with undercover agents and made a "down-payment" on the weapons, with a payment of $4,000 and a quarter-kilo of cocaine. Finney was immediately arrested, however, and no weapons were delivered.

Other weapons, allegedly requested by the gang members, included MP-5 9mm Submachineguns with silencers, and a quantity of military- grade 5.56mm M-16 assault rifles. Another unconfirmed report indicated that streetgang members have also recently been attempting to purchase military fragmentation grenades. More than twenty (20) U.S. Army "baseball-type" grenades have previously been confiscated by police undercover operatives on Chicago's Westside.

Harrison Ave. Police District Commander William G. LaFleur said that they had been advised of the conspiracy by federal agents and had taken additional security measures to ensure the safety of officer and the public. Security had also reportedly been tightened at a court holding and arraignment facility that is located adjacent to the police district. Cmdr. LaFleur was reportedly angered and outraged at the possibility of such an attack on Chicago police officers.

Roberts and two other fugitives named in the conspiracy and weapons indictments remain at large. They are considered by the police to be armed and dangerous. A search is reportedly being conducted on Chicago's Westside and in several nearby suburbs, where gang members are known to have "safe houses".