Community activists are working on a “peace treaty” between two rival gangs to try to prevent another outbreak of violence after a Sunday shootout in a crowded South Dallas park injured two teens.
The weekend shooting occurred as a large crowd gathered to remember two documented gang members, Damontre Sweeney and Jabri Jones, who had been killed on March 19, one year ago. They were shot to death in a car. The killing remains unsolved.
“That kind of violence only happens when we don't say anything about it,” says Antong Lucky, who works for the Urban Specialists, a community action group. “We’ve become numb to violence.”
Lucky, a former gang leader, says members of Urban Specialists have been meeting with members of the two groups trying to prevent renewed violence and retaliation. They are trying to convince them to denounce continued violence.
WFAA has been covering the on-going dispute between the two groups, the Ben Frank Gang, or BFG, and YNB. Police sources say both groups have now been documented as criminal street gangs. BFG and YNB also are local rap groups who have posted numerous videos on YouTube.
Sweeney and Jones were members of BFG. Police sources have said that their killings sparked a deadly rivalry. BFG has made tribute videos to Sweeney and Jones.
Sources say that the rivalry culminated in Sunday’s shooting in a park behind Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School.
Police radio traffic shows the chaos that erupted.
“We got a female shot in the face,” one officer says.
“We got a large crowd gathering,” another officer says.
“We need code 3 cover now,” a third office says.
According to police, someone opened fire on the large gathering, sending people scrambling for cover. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the face. A 17-year-old was shot in the leg.
The stepfather of the 17-year-old says the teen is now recovering at home. The bullet is still in his leg. He says he had just dropped his son off at the block party when the gunfire started.
“It’s just getting out of control,” he said. “It was just senseless.”
The 16-year-old girl remains in the hospital. Her condition remains very serious.
Lamont Levels, a former gang leader who now tries to keep kids out of gangs, heard the gunshots from his house. He heard dozens of rounds from a high-powered rifle.
“You’d think if somebody was having a memorial that someone wouldn’t come shoot it up,” said Levels, who lost his sight in a drug deal-gone-bad more than 15 years ago.
He spoke to people who were there that night.
“They were devastated,” he said. “They saw the girl get shot and fall to the ground.”
Levels blames the city and top police officials for being in denial about the state of the gang problem in Dallas.
“They don’t want to even recognize that we have a gang problem,” he said.
In a rare move indicating the seriousness of what happened Sunday, police publicly confirmed that the shooting was gang related and asked for the public’s help to find out who was behind it.
“It’s a problem when you have a park full of kids and someone comes and sprays the park up,” Lucky says.
Rev. Dr. Michael Waters, founding pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal, came to the site of the shooting on the night it happened. He is concerned about the ongoing violence and lack of hope in the community.
“This is symptomatic of a larger issue,” he said. “I believe if we don’t change the trajectory that we are headed on to become the next Detroit. We’ll become the next Chicago.”
A candlelight vigil to remember Sweeney and Jones had been scheduled in the park for Tuesday night.
No one showed up. It appeared to have been rescheduled because off the heavy police presence in the park. That presence included DISD police, Dallas police and Dallas police gang unit members. There were at least 25 squad cars parked all around the park and school.
Waters, Levels and Lucky say change is going to require community involvement.
“When you ignore it, you just throw a Band-aid on it,” Levels said. “ Penitentiaries and cemeteries are packed with young black men that have lost their lives for a lost cause or they don’t even know what the cause was.”
They want the gang violence to stop. Lucky and Levels’ message is that they got out of the gang life and others can, too.
“We stand here as representatives that redemption is possible,” Lucky says. “You can be better.”