Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams was one of the most famous gangsters in America’s history. He was one of the founders and leaders of one of the worst street gangs in America, the Crips. The gang was famous for its violent and predatory activities in the Southern part of Central Los Angeles. Williams led the Crips until December 13th 2005 when he was executed by California State, an event that attracted a lot of international and national attention. Despite the gang’s bad reputation, Williams once admitted that the Crips gang was formed to help eliminate other violent gangs in neighborhoods. He further claimed that the gang got out of control and ended up being one of the gangs that he had initially hoped to eliminate.
Stanley Tookie Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana State on 29th December 1953. Born in a poor family, he got acquainted to street life at an early age. He was born to a 17 year old single mother. Williams’ family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1959 hoping to earn a better life than what they had in New Orleans. This was when Williams got exposed to street life. Young William had to adapt quickly to survive the tough life on the streets of South-Central Los Angeles. He had to deal with neighborhood bullies and many other physical conflicts. In his own words, Williams said, “As a member of the black male species living in the ghetto microcosm, circumstances dictated that I be either prey or predator.”
A reflection on Williams’ childhood shows that he led a life where drugs and violence were the order of the day. He also had no strict parental guidance hence; he ended up getting influenced by the surrounding. He idolized drug dealers and criminals. At some point in his teenage, he was paid to take care of dogs that had been injured in dogfights (dog fights were illegal). He also got paid to beat up other young boys till they lost consciousness. These experiences toughened Williams into a hardcore criminal in his future years (Williams, 2008).
Williams did not attend school because he believed he had a better future on the streets than in school. He was determined to prove himself on the streets using force and violence. He made several friends on the streets who became his accomplices. They made quick money through stealing and robbery. It was on the same streets in 1969 that he met his future ally, Raymond Washington. Raymond and Williams formed the Crisp gang, whose initial objective was to wipe out all other violent gangs in the South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood. The initial members of the Crips gang were around 30 individuals. The Crips gang was later on divided into the East side and the West side Crips gangs. The gang grew rapidly in the 1970s and by 1979; it had become a statewide gang. It was at this point that Williams and his cofounder, Raymond lost control of the Crips gang.
The division of the Crips led to a series of internal conflicts. In 1979, Raymond Washington was shot dead. His death was suspected to be a plot by the Hoover faction of his gang. Williams became a widely known gangster and drug abuser. In 1979, he and fellow Crips members abused PCP-laced cigarettes then went to a convenience store to rob the clerk. Police reports later showed that the clerk, Albert Owens, was taken to a backroom by Tookie Williams while his accomplices took away money from the register. Williams allegedly shot the security camera in the room before killing Owens. Police further indicated that Williams used the two shot execution approach by shooting Owens twice from the back. From that robbery, the gang stole 120 dollars. Williams later denied the allegation that he killed Owens (Williams, 2008).
In 1979 March 11th, Williams went to the Brookhaven Motel in central Los Angeles and broke in. Williams then killed 3 people who were members of a Taiwanese family that owned and ran the motel. Ballistics experts were able to link the shells from the shotgun at Brookhaven Motel to Williams’ gun. Some of the Crips gangsters even admitted that Williams had bragged to them about the crime. However, Williams denied these charges and claimed that other Crips members were framing him.
In 1981, Williams was arraigned in a Superior Court in Los Angeles where he was tried and convicted of 4 murders and 2 robbery counts. The court sentenced him to death. In the same year April 20th, Williams was sent to San Quentin state prison. Tookie Williams did not find life in prison friendly; he assaulted fellow inmates and guards several times. This earned him 6.5 years in solitary confinement. Two years into his solitaryconfinement sentence, Williams began examining his past life choices. He repented his past mistakes and attributed his change to God. Tookie Williams started advocating against robbery and violence.
In 1988, Williams filed a federal appeal in which he told judicial officials that he had changed his ways. Despite this attempt, the appeal was denied. He was released from solitary confinement in 1994. Armed with a new mind set, Williams began writing a book. In 1996, the first of the 8 “Tookie Speaks out against Gang Violence” books aimed at children was published. The books were co-authored by Barbara Cottman Becnel. In 1997, Williams released a written apology for playing a big role in the formation of the Crips gang. He claimed he had changed and that his life was then dedicated to God. More so, Williams released a book titled, “Life in Prison (Williams & Becnel, 2008).” The book was a short non-fiction book explaining the bad encounters of jail.
In 2002, Tookie Williams was nominated by Mario Fehr, a Swiss member of parliament, for the Nobel Peace Prize. This was in recognition for Williams’ remarkable work in his campaign against gang violence. Williams did not win the award. However, many people were in favor of Williams’ transformation from a dangerous street gang leader into a social reformer. Williams went on to be nominated for the same award for a total of six times. In 2002, Williams filed another appeal to commute his death sentence. The appeal attorneys requested the judge to commute Tookie Williams’ death sentence to life behind bars. They argued that Williams’ efforts in educating people on anti-gang issues showed he was reformed. Unfortunately, the appeal was rejected once more (Williams & Becnel, 2008).
Tookie Williams played a big role in the formation of the Tookie Protocol for Peace in 2004. This was an agreement for peace to end a deadly and arguably the most infamous gang wars in USA. There had been a bad war between the two biggest gangs in the USA, the Bloods and the Crips. For his role in reaching the peace agreement, Tookie Williams was commended by President George W. Bush in a letter. In the same year, Tookie’s book, “Blue Rage, Black Redemption: A Memoir (2004) was released. This book was written with the aim of warning young people against following in the footsteps of Tookie Williams’ criminal life. This book was also converted into a television movie, “Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story (2004).
With Tookie’s death sentence approaching, Williams petitioned for clemency once more in 2005. The then Governor of California state, Arnold Schwarzenegger met Williams to help decide if the death sentence could be converted into life in prison. Williams’ attorneys and prosecutors were each given half an hour to plead their case to the California state governor. At the end of the meeting, Schwarzenegger opted to deny Tookie Williams his bid for clemency. The governor cited the fact that forensic evidence had proved beyond doubt that Williams was responsible for all charges he had been convicted. Furthermore, the governor casted doubts on whether Tookie Williams had really reformed. He argued that Williams could have been acting to be reformed just to earn himself clemency. Therefore, Williams was to pay for the crimes he had committed by facing the death sentence.
The denial of clemency caused a lot of protests by prominent and civilians all over the USA and across the world. Williams was executed using a lethal injection on the 13th of December 2005 at San Quentin state prison where he had been held for the past three decades. The execution was met with a lot of criticism from celebrities, civil rights groups such as the NAACP and many other supporters.
Many people will remember Tookie Williams as the founder of the fiercest, violent, predatory and dangerous street gangs in America. Crips gang became a country wide gang; reports from the LA district attorney suggest that Crips became an international gang. Williams abused drugs, took part in robbery and other crimes. He also took part in many gang fights and in some cases attacked innocent civilians. His huge physique made him look intimidating to his fellow gangsters and civilians alike. He led a life that revolutionized street gang crimes until today. However, he will also be remembered for his tireless efforts to fight against street gangs, foster peace and encouraging young people to be law abiding citizens. Some people call him the founder of Crips and the father of street gangs. However, he can also be referred to as the social reformer who dedicated his life to fight street gang crimes during his life in jail.
Becnel, B. C. (2008). Gangs and the abuse of power. Los Angeles: Damamli Pub. Co.
Siegel, L. J. (2012). Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies (11 illustrated ed.). London: Cengage Learning.
Williams, S. T. (2008). Gangs and drugs. Los Angeles: Damamli Pub. Co.
Williams, S. T., & Becnel, B. C. (2008). Gangs and your neighborhood. Los Angeles: Damamli Pub. Co.