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Friday, 2 April 2010

R2’s , 40 Cal Al “got back up to try to run.” Five cops tackled him; he couldn’t break free. Cops charged him with carrying a pistol without a permit

12:25 | ,

“They’re definitely one of the hardest crews in town right now. No doubt about it,” said Tyrone Weston, who works with gang members as head of the Street Outreach Workers program. “If you have a problem with them, your life is on the line. It’s not a crew that shoots you in your legs.”40 Cal Al” was on his way to shoot a rival gang member. The cops caught him first. The gang originally formed in response to another group of boys—dubbed R1—based north of Newhall Street on Read, according to Lt. Thaddeus Reddish, who lives in Newhallville and serves as the neighborhood’s district manager. The two groups would get into fights, an intra-neighborhood rivalry. Then R2 developed into a more structured, hardcore criminal gang.
That’s the police version. The police—and neighbors in Newhallville and southern Hamden—have their hands full these days with the gang that 40 Cal Al allegedly belongs to, a gang called R2 that’s believed to be at the center of a rash of recent shootings and robberies.Cops say 40 Cal Al, who’s 17, was riding in a car that officers pulled over at Dixwell and Munson last Saturday night at 10:25.The driver stopped the car, then sped off. He stopped again; 40 Cal Al and another passenger “bolted out” and led cops on a foot chase through backyards, to Shelton Avenue.40 Cal Al “was gripping at his waistband and bending forward as he ran on foot,” Detective Elisa Tuozzoli wrote later. “Based on our training and experience,” the cops figured he had a gun.On Argyle Street, 40 Cal Al “fell on the sidewalk into a fetal position,” then “remove[d] a handgun from his waistband area and dump[ed] it onto the sidewalk,” according to Tuozzoli.“Gun!” she yelled. 40 Cal Al “got back up to try to run.” Five cops tackled him; he couldn’t break free. Cops charged him with carrying a pistol without a permit—40 Cal Al was allegedly carrying a .38—and interfering with police.More importantly, according to Tuozzoli’s account, police prevented the latest of a spate of gang-related shootings that have plagued the black community: 40 Cal Al was allegedly headed to shoot members of the Kensington Street-based Tre Bloods to avenge a shooting earlier that day of another R2 member, the latest in an ongoing deadly dispute between the two gangs.It was the latest arrest involving an alleged member of R2. Until recently most people haven’t heard of R2. But they’ve allegedly caused an increasing amount of trouble in Newhallville in recent months and emerged as one of the city’s most organized and lethal criminal groups. A new police chief named Frank Limon comes to town to begin work a week from Monday. He has promised to make fighting gangs a top priority. He’ll be hearing a lot about R2.The 30-member gang has a longer version of its name: “R2 BWE Black Flag.” BWE stands for “Beef With Everybody.” Black flag is a symbol of independence; other city gangs claim a “red flag” for affiliation to the Bloods, or a “blue flag” to the Crips. R2 stands for the western side of Read Street (especially around the corner of Shelton and Read, pictured), the heart of an area that the gang claims as its turf. The area includes part of New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood and the adjoining Highwood section of Hamden.The gang has been linked to at least two recent homicides, three attempted armed assaults on cops, 19 aggravated assaults, 78 firearms discharges, and 15 street robberies, according to Lt. John Velleca, who heads the police department’s narcotics and gang-intelligence squad. R2 members deal crack cocaine, but the gang isn’t involved just in drugs. Its younger members, boys 14 to 17 years old, don’t even carry drugs; they often attack people just to steal money, or to settle scores.Older gang lieutenants, men in their 30s with rap sheets from a previous gang era, know the kids can get off easier on gun charges, Velleca said. “You catch a kid with a gun at 15 years old. He’s going to juvenile [lock-up]. He’s going home that night. It handcuffs us.” Especially under a new state law treating 16-year-olds as juveniles, he said. “It used to be 16, you can send them on the wagon. Now you give them a note and send them home with their parents.”Since taking over as Newhallville’s top cop last June, Lt. Reddish has been on a mission to confront R2 and get the community to take it seriously.
“I don’t hide this,” Reddish said. “They prey. It’s a pack. They terrorize the neighborhood.”Random young people stopped at the corner of Shelton and Read one afternoon this week professed not to see R2 around the corner. (See the video at the top of this story for a sample.)As they spoke, a boy across the street called out “Police!” Young men started walking briskly in all directions, stuffing small objects into their pockets.Up pulled Lt. Reddish and Officer Robert Hayden in separate cruisers. They got out and started questioning people on the corners.
They do that regularly, Reddish said. He has made a point of regularly patting down young people on various neighborhood hot spots where R2 and other clusters of troublemaking teens claiming gang affiliations congregate. (Four groups in Newhallville claim to be Crips spin-offs, he said.)“Right now you come by here [it’s so peaceful that] you want to buy a house. Then come by when we’re not here ... We’re trying to be everywhere at once,” he said.Then he pointed to a little boy riding a bicycle in front of a Shelton Avenue home, and older people hanging out. That wasn’t happening when he took over the district last summer, Reddish said.“We have to make them feel like the neighborhood has felt—uncomfortable,” Reddish said. “They know when I’m coming. They call me ‘White Shirt.’”In addition to aggressive patrolling, Reddish has called on neighbors to help out. He said he brings up the reality of gang activity at neighborhood meetings. And he urges parents to check their sons’ tattoos. (R2’s insignia is a large capital R next to a small number 2.)“If they go unnoticed, if people sit and say, ‘These are just kids,’ you’re allowing them to grow stronger and stronger. They need to be policed,” Reddish said.Neighborhood gangs are a reality citywide, Lt. Velleca said. He estimated that a maximum of 500 young people belong to them.Sometimes there’s a tendency to exaggerate their prowess: “The perception is these gang members, they all sell drugs” and have ties to national Bloods and Crips. Some do sell drugs; others commit robberies or engage in violent turf wars with other neighborhood groups, he said.

The majority aren’t as organized as R2, according to Velleca. They don’t have formal affiliations with national gangs; in a bust of one alleged Crips leader, police found gang rules printed out from a website. Gang activity hasn’t reached anywhere near the levels of the early 1990s, when police sent leaders of Kensington Street International, the Jungle Boys, the Ville, and the Tribe to federal prison.Still, the gangs are real, and they’re making life difficult for people in Newhallville, Dixwell, Dwight/Kensington, the Hill, and Fair Haven, Velleca said. And R2 in particular has developed to a particularly dangerous level. The gangs’ shootings have also become harder to solve, Velleca said; clearance rates on homicides have dropped 30 to 40 percent in cities across the country, including New York.That’s because the shootings have become more random, he said. “An R2 guy will arbitrarily ride through the Tre and somebody will get shot,” he said. “The rule of thumb used to be somebody gets shot at 3, 4 in the morning, you look at their circle of friends. Chances are good they know who did that to him.” No more. It’s more random. Meanwhile reports like this one, from Wednesday night, show up in daily police roundups: “The complainant reported shots fired in front of this location. Officers located seven spent casings and two vehicles that were struck. Witnesses describe six to seven black males responsible. Three fled on foot towards Whalley Avenue while the others entered a grey colored vehicle which resembled a Camry or an Audi with passenger side damage. They were heard yelling ‘R2’ as they fled ... “

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