Benson Police charged eight young men ages 12 to 17 Wednesday during an investigation into gang-related activity in the town.
According to Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards, the group of young men beat and robbed victims on two occasions in what was apparently gang initiations.
The arrests were a result of an initial Benson Police Department investigation into gang "tagging," where gangs spray paint grafitti, or "tags," on public property announcing their presence.
The youths are allegedly associated with both the Blood and Crips gangs.
In interviews conducted during the investigation, police developed information which led to warrants for eight youths, three of whom are under age 16, on charges of common law robbery.
"We learned (in one of the attacks) one of the assailants was wearing a blue bandanna, and the other one a red bandanna," Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards said. "There was a third person, and when we brought them in, they kind of told on each other."
Blue bandannas are a symbol of Crip membership. Red bandannas are a symbol of Bloods membership.
Police arrested Ahmad Rashon Mr. McAllister, 16, of W. Hill St. in Benson and Anthony Martice Crenshaw, 16, of Hines Drive in Four Oaks on charges of common law robbery.
Mr. McAllister was held under $25,000 bond. Mr. Crenshaw was held under $40,000 bond. Both are held in the Johnston County Jail.
A 13-year-old juvenile was also charged in the incident and advised of the filing of a juvenile petition.
The three are charged in an incident on April 29 in which they allegedly assaulted and robbed a 22-year-old man at the Benson Housing Authority.
According to Chief Edwards, the attack was preplanned.
"The victim went to visit a friend," Chief Edwards said. "The attackers knew him and one of them approached him and asked for a cigarette.
"As he was reaching for one, he was assaulted," he said. "They asked him if he had any money and when he said he didn't, they beat him to the ground and started kicking him."
In the second case, which occurred on May 13, three men were at Nance Park in Benson when they were assaulted by a group of men who stole several items and approximately $300 in cash.
In the incident, according to an investigation report, a 17-year-old and two 15-year-olds, were sitting in the park when they were approached by group of seven young men.
Hit With Brass Knuckles
In the report the victims said the group started shaking hands with them and asked what their names were when one put on a pair of brass knuckles and punched the oldest victim in the face.
At that point the other men in the larger group jumped in and began beating the three before robbing them.
Warrants in that case were issued for Kendall Montrell Basker, 17, of Chicopee Road Benson; Travis Booker, 16, also of Chicopee Road; and Brandon Alex Huffman, 17, of N.C. 96 South, all of Benson.
Mr. Booker was arrested Wednesday and held on $51,000 bond in the Johnston County Jail.
Three juveniles ages 12, 13 and 15 who were involved in the attack and robbery were advised of the filing of juvenile petitions. The 13-year-old was also allegedly involved in the first attack.
Mr. Crenshaw was also charged in that incident. He was held in the Johnston County Jail under $160,000 bond.
According to the news release, Mr. Basker and Mr. Huffman are still at large.
During the investigation, Chief Edwards said, police found the teens were a mixed group of gang members with some claiming allegiance to the Bloods and some to the Crips, an association some find hard to believe since the two gangs are notorious rivals.
"What I think is that these boys have been friends," he said. "They've grown up together, been to school together and they don't have any legitimate beef with each other and can show mutual respect.
"I do believe this could have been an initiation for one and/or all of the boys involved," he said.
Chief Edwards said there was independent testimony from a source which led him to believe the attacks were part of an initiation.
"We did have an independent person come in and confirm that these boys were in fact involved with (a gang) in Dunn," he said. "Essentially, the reason he was in Benson . . . is because they were recruited in Benson to be a part of this particular group.
"As part of the initiation, there are only a couple of things they can do, and one of those is to commit a crime," he said. "That's why the (source) who we interviewed theorized it was probably an initiation."
First For Benson
Chief Edwards said this was the first time Benson had seen any kind of serious gang-related activity.
"Long story short, we've not experienced anything I believe to be honest-to-goodness hardcore gang activity," he said. "But I am also of the belief that what we have seen with the wannabe . . . is equally as dangerous because they feel like they have got something to prove."
According to Chief Edwards, the police department plans on taking the gang situation seriously by monitoring the situation, continuing the investigation the incidents have started and following up on the leads so as to know "who's who in the gang community.'"
"I hope that's the end of it," he said. "I believe at least for these boys it will be.
"I have to add, that in their case, this is primarily due to the involvement of the parents," he said. "And you don't get to say that a lot."