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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Young Guns: A new brand of gangster grows up in a killing culture

450gang_kids_015_08132008_12qe84 Danger sits in a booth at Denny's, talking about the reason for his name.

"I stabbed about three people," he says, his angular face betraying no particular emotion. He mentions it offhandedly, like a kid trying to be modest about something in which he takes great pride.

Now 18, Danger, has been a dedicated gang member for the past five years. It was his homies, his brothers in arms, who bestowed the street name.

"I been in it forever," said the narrow-eyed young man, fresh from a six-month stint at the juvenile lockup Maple Lane, where he served time for robbery and assault. "Grew up with it from like when I was a baby."

Gang membership - which has earned Danger a 49-page rap sheet loaded with weapons, burglary, robbery, car theft, harassment and assault charges - was a family tradition, he says, and he can't recall ever wanting anything else. His father, now dead, was involved, as are his older brothers. He is estranged from his mother, who lives in White Center.

As a boy, he did the bidding of his elders on a series of missions - "It was like 'Go here, rob somebody. Go there, do that' " - and then, after a sufficient number he was initiated, "jumped-in" the traditional way, by a crowd of gangsters who beat him until he could fight his way out.

After that it was official. Danger had become, at 13, part of the sprawling local network of Hispanic gangs that run under the Sureños umbrella.

There are as many as 100 such groups in and around Seattle - black, Latino, Asian and white gangs - some with carefully structured hierarchies that get their marching orders from prison inmates, others taking a more haphazard approach. During the first eight months of 2008, their gunplay has killed at least a half-dozen teenagers, injured scores more and left police scrambling to find new ways of addressing a problem that is decades old. Records show at least 43 youth victims of gun assaults in Seattle since the beginning of the year. [Mark Godsey]

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