Crime - Sacto 911

Deadly online rap battle prompts Sacramento to move forward on controversial gang program

A deadly shooting in Meadowview over the weekend related to a trio of local rappers and the gangs who support them pushed the Sacramento City Council to immediately approve a controversial gun-violence prevention program that targets the handful of young men suspected of being behind most of the violence.

In front of a packed City Council Chambers, the council voted 9-0 on Tuesday to adopt a three-year, $1.5 million contract for Advance Peace, a mentoring and intervention approach to gun violence. Pioneered in Richmond, the program is credited by city leaders there for significantly reducing gun crime, but has been criticized for giving cash stipends to participants for reaching goals such as earning a high school diploma.

The Advance Peace program in Sacramento would target about 50 young men, mostly black and Latino, who are thought by police and city leaders to be responsible for most gun violence in the city, especially gang-related crimes that are often retaliatory and personal. City police are currently investigating five homicides this year that are possibly gang related, said police spokesman Officer Eddie Macaulay. In total, 13 people in the city have died this year from gunshot wounds.

“We don’t have a moment to wait here,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “It’s another shooting on Sunday in Meadowview involving this feud over who gets credit for writing music. On the one hand it’s baffling, but on the other hand it’s real.”

Councilman Rick Jennings, one of the chief advocates of bringing Advance Peace to Sacramento, said the program is “investing in the most at-risk population.”

“This population that we’re talking about now, we have not been able to touch this population,” Jennings said. “There’s too many people dying from senseless violence. There’s too many people dying. We need (Advance Peace) now.”

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby expressed a list of concerns with the agreement. She said the proposal was “sorely lacking (in details) and in my opinion leaves the city of Sacramento completely vulnerable to being taken advantage of.”

Ashby said there was nothing in the contract requiring Advance Peace to work directly with any of the local activists who packed the Council Chambers on Tuesday, or with the police department and local school districts. She said the contract also did not explicitly state that outreach will occur in Oak Park, Del Paso Heights and Meadowview – three city neighborhoods heavily impacted by violent crime.

Ashby also expressed concerns that the contract does not require Advance Peace to match the city’s financial investment in the program with its own money. The mayor and others countered that Advance Peace intends to match the city dollars. The council directed City Manager Howard Chan to address Ashby’s concerns in the contract, and Ashby ultimately supported the proposal.

“Yes, (the contract) is a little bit messy, but no more messy than what’s going on in the Oak Park and Meadowview neighborhoods,” Steinberg said.

In recent months, the increase in gun violence has been mirrored by acrimonious social media exchanges between three local rappers who go by the names Mozzy, C-Bo and Lavish D. The three men have exchanged numerous barbs and “diss” songs that city leaders and law enforcement believe could be spurring supporters to take revenge offline.

The Meadowview shooting took place at a popular neighborhood park Sunday afternoon during a video shoot for C-Bo, whose given name is Shawn Thomas. Four people were injured and one man, 49-year-old Ernie Jessey Cadena, was killed.

Thomas promoted the video shoot on Instagram. In his post, viewed by more than 17,000 people, Thomas wrote, “let’s go sactown OG’s will be out side.” Cadena, a father with one daughter and second child due in coming weeks, was at the park to attend a barbeque and the filming of the music video, according to community activist Les Simmons.

The promotion of the video shoot, also billed as a unity barbeque in the wake of the escalating violence, may have drawn the notice of supporters of rival rappers, said community activist Berry Accius.

“Yesterday’s shooting definitely did not happen because it was a random act of violence. This is something that has definitely been a build-up,” said Simmons, a pastor who supports Advance Peace.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said the department is aware of the ongoing social media feud between the rival rappers and expects that it is not over. Hahn said there is “a decent likelihood that more shootings will come from (the Meadowview) shooting.”

Hahn said that he supports the Advance Peace program as another “tool” in fighting gun crime, but that current police enforcement and community intervention programs are also necessary.

“Sunday is a perfect example of why we need to attack violence in our communities in many different ways,” Hahn said. He added that he believed monitoring the program and requiring proof of results would be essential to evaluating its success.

“Measurement is a huge part of this,” Hahn said.

Simmons called Sunday’s shooting a “defining moment” for the city to take action, similar to the 2011 shooting of Monique Nelson, 30, who was a bystander killed during a shootout in the parking lot of Fly Cuts & Styles on Stockton Boulevard while draping her body over her then 2-year-old son to protect him from the flying bullets. Simmons was one of more than a dozen activists who spoke in favor of the council proposal Tuesday night.

The Meadowview Park shooting is also part of a larger trend of increased violence in the city. Firearms were used in 280 assaults last year, a 12 percent increase over 2015. There has been an uptick in homicides this year, officials said, and police have increased patrols in Oak Park throughout the summer.

“Do we have a problem?” said Khaalid Muttaqi, the city’s gang prevention task force director. “The statistics and the data tell us that we do.”

The Advance Peace program targets “the most lethal young men walking the streets,” according to its founder, DeVone Boggan. Boggan’s program recruits streetwise ex-gang members and convicted gun felons who have reformed into stable lives but still have the neighborhood credibility to speak to younger generations of gang members.

Those mentors help recruit “fellows” into an 18-month program that uses one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy and life coaching — along with a stipend of up to $1,000 a month for nine months — to help participants move away from violence.

Because the vote at City Council involves a contract and has not had the required 10-day notice, a two-thirds approval will be required by Council members.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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