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City takes Hidden Valley gang to court

Proposed injunction would sharply limit gang activities, but critics say it may compromise civil liberties

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  • In court

    The hearing on the city’s request for an injunction against the Hidden Valley Kings begins at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Courtroom 6310 of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.



The Hidden Valley Kings have their day in court Thursday – along with the city that hopes to close them down.

The Kings, who police say dominate the north Charlotte neighborhood from where they take their name, could be the target of North Carolina’s first restraining order against a gang.

The legal offensive by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, which is based on civil rather than criminal statutes, became possible under a state law that went into effect in October.

The strategy originated in Los Angeles and has spread to other states. Police officers say gang activity has eased off in many of the places after the rules were put in place, in part because the ordinances ban known gang members from associating with each other in public.

The gang rules have been successfully attacked on constitutional grounds. In 2011, a judge blocked a proposed gang ordinance in Orange County, Calif., after residents claimed that some of those targeted didn’t belong to gangs. In Utah, a 3-year-old law used by the city of Ogden is now before the state Supreme Court.

The first application of North Carolina’s “Street Gang Nuisance Abatement Act” in Charlotte has drawn the attention of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Staff attorney Raul Pinto said Wednesday that the group plans to monitor the case. He wondered whether the ordinance is necessary given that police have other steps they could take.

“We can all agree that our communities need to be safe,” Pinto said, “But these types of law enforcement tools can be overly broad and encompass activity that’s not illegal, and they can lead to racial profiling. That’s our concern.”

The proposed injunction would prohibit the Kings from holding firearms, drugs and narcotics. It also bans recruitment or initiation of new members and forbids existing ones from “driving, standing, sitting, walking, gathering or approaching” each other in public.

The goal, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe says, is to limit the gang’s activity in Hidden Valley and other neighborhoods while also crippling its recruitment of what the Kings call BGs, short for “Baby Gangsters.”

“We have to break that cycle. A lot of times we can’t or won’t be able to arrest our way out of this,” Monroe said after a meeting with Hidden Valley residents earlier this month.

“There’s no guarantee that this injunction will make its way successfully through the court, but we’re going to make every effort,” Monroe said. “We’re asking the community to rally with us when we go to court.”

Turf

In its motion, the city names names.

Not only does it list the Kings as a defendant, but three men described as gang leaders: Wendell “Face” McCain, Kevin “Kevo” Funderbunk and Cordell “Big Homie” Blair.

The gang took root in Hidden Valley in the late 1980s. Members run a drug trade that largely finances the purchase of guns, the city’s motion says, and gang members have been linked to such crimes as robbery, burglary, assault and murder.

Today, the Kings claim “turf” bordered by West Sugar Creek Road to the south, Reagan Drive to the west, North Tryon Street to the east, and Reagan and Tryon to the north, says Brett Gant, a member of the police department’s gang unit, who filed an affidavit for the case.

The Kings’ rivalry with other gangs, particularly the Greenville Mob Bloods from the Greenville community, remains fierce, Gant wrote. The Kings often move off home turf to commit crimes, which draws retaliation from other gangs.

“The shooting back and forth between neighborhoods occurs without regard to whether the intended target is a gang member, and innocent bystanders are often victimized,” Gant said, adding that witnesses often don’t cooperate out of fear of gang reprisals.

Toward that end, the city’s proposed injunction would ban gang members from intimidating, harassing, threatening – even “annoying” – possible witnesses to Kings’ activity.

McCain runs the group, Gant said. The group’s “Tier 1” leadership also includes Funderbunk, Blair, Reginald “Juke” Carter, Brandon “B-Lo” Clark, Terrence “T-Bone” Cunningham, and Randy “Bo” Hodge, the detective said.

In 2012, McCain started a record label called “Icee Money,” which the city says is operated by Tier 1 Kings’ members, promotes gangster rap and is a front for the gang. It, too, has been named as a defendant in the case.

Researcher Maria David and Cleve Wootson Jr. contributed

Gordon: 704-358-5095
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