A lopsided street fight between two young gangs struggling to prove themselves allegedly led to the death of a 17-year-old boy last week on the East Side of St. Paul.
Vince “Mo” Allison and a couple of his friends were ambushed and chased by a rival gang when Allison was gunned down in a parking lot Thursday night.
Kelvin D. Nickles, also 17, was charged in Allison’s death with second-degree murder and crime committed for a benefit of a gang in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday.
Both gangs, whose members originally formed them when they were between the ages of 12 and 14, have been known to clash in the streets to try to gain recognition from older gang members.
“That’s how a lot of these feuds begin, pitting one another against each other to see who is the toughest,” said officer Darryl Boerger, a member of the St. Paul Police Department’s gang unit for more than five years.
The members of Ham Crazy, which stands for “Hoes and Money Crazy,” got together six to seven years ago after aspiring to be in the East Side Boyz gang but they were too young, Boerger said.
“They will do what they can to impress the structure of the East Side Boyz gang,” he said.
While the Ham Crazy gang has about 50 members, the Gutta Block gang that formed a couple of years ago in opposition to Ham Crazy has fewer than 15 members, Boerger said.
The two gangs aren’t organized with a hierarchical structure like more established gangs, he said. They don’t have vast criminal enterprises. They aren’t driving fancy cars.
“They’re walking the streets, riding the buses. Most of their meals come from convenience stores,” he said.
It’s more about survival, Boerger said. “It’s sad.”
Police are using different methods to try to keep the crime that could erupt in the area of Payne and Case over the summer from escalating.
The city’s Safe Summer Initiative has been targeting large groups of youth who wander the streets in the area past curfew hours. More police have also been patrolling the area. On Wednesday, Eastern District Senior Commander Joe Neuberger said a grant was approved to purchase portable camera technology for surveillance on Payne Avenue. “We are throwing every tool we got at it,” Neuberger said.
According to the juvenile petition, the shooting was the result of a feud between the Gutta Block and Ham Crazy gangs. The cliques had an altercation earlier in the day with a group of between 35 and 40 people yelling back and forth and pushing each other in the area. Later that night, a large group of Ham Crazy gang members on Payne Avenue allegedly chased a small number of Gutta Block members, who ran because they were outnumbered. Allison was shot shortly before 10 p.m. in the parking lot of the Salvation Army near Lawson Avenue.
One witness police identified as a Gutta Block member said he saw Nickles, also known as K-Wild, dressed in black clothing and a black hooded sweatshirt, emerge from an alley. The witness then heard a “pop” and Allison yelling, “Aaaaw.” The witness told police he saw Nickles earlier with a gun in the alley. Another witness also identified Nickles as the only person wearing all black clothing, although no witnesses reported seeing who had the gun at the time of the shooting, according to the petition.
Surveillance video from businesses on Payne Avenue show a large group of people chasing a small group, and only one person dressed in a dark hoodie, who stood in a shooting stance and then appeared to tuck something into his waistband, the charges said.
Nickles admitted to an investigator that he was wearing a dark hoodie, according to the petition. Nickles gave various accounts of what led up to the shooting in a police interview, the charges said, but he said, “It was gang related.” He admitted to being part of the group running after the smaller group and hearing the gunshot and Allison’s scream, the charges said.
Nickles made his first appearance in juvenile court Wednesday. He affirmed to the judge that he knew why he was there; he also waved to his family, who declined to speak with the media. Prosecutors are seeking to certify Nickles as an adult.
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.