RAYMOND WASHINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE CRIPS

This article about Raymond Washington appeared in the L.A. Weekly back in 2005  days after Stanely "Tookie" Williams was put to death in San Quentin.   

 

 

On The Trail Of The Real Founder Of The Crips

The founder of the Crips was not lethally injected minutes after midnight Tuesday morning in the sterilized death chamber of San Quentin State Prison. There was no news of his death. There were no Oscar winners or rap stars urging that his life continue. Fifty-year-old white women in $5 million Hancock Park homes did not ponder the gang leader’s fate in his final days. No bums pushing shopping carts on Sunset and Vine had opinions on whether a governor should spare him from a state-inflicted death.

No, the founder of the Crips was gut-shot with a sawed-off on a dreary South Los Angeles corner 26 (now 34) years ago.Contrary to popular assumption, Sranley "Tookie" Williams, who was fatally injected Tuesday morning and pronounced dead at 12:35 a.m., was not the founder or even the co-founder of the Crips. The undisputed father of the notorious black street gang was one Raymond Washington, a mighty 5-foot-8 fireplug who loved to fight and loathed guns. He was killed at age 26 by a shotgun blast — allegedly by someone he knew — on the corner of 64th and San Pedro streets on August 9, 1979.

There was no mention of his death in the Los Angeles Times or any other major newspaper as there was of the death of Williams. But on the hardcore streets of South-Central Los Angeles, Watts and Compton, the slaying of Washington was akin to a presidential assassination.

“All this talk lately about Tookie, we was wondering when someone was gonna finally tell the real story about the Crips, tell the story of Raymond,” said Debra Addie Smith,  who knew the gang leader back in the early and mid-1970s.Raymond Washington was born in Texas, but grew up on 76th Street near Wadsworth Avenue, just west of Central Avenue.

“Raymond was a good kid when he was a boy,” said his mother, Violet Barton, who now lives in Phoenix. “Raymond didn’t go out of his way to fight or do anything bad, but if someone came to him, he would protect himself. And he was well-built. He tried to protect the community and keep the bad guys out. But after a while, every time I looked up, the police were coming to the house looking for Raymond.”

Others on 76th Street, a well-kept block of small single-family homes that is now more Latino than African-American, said that while Raymond protected the boys and girls from bullies from other neighborhoods, he bullied them himself.

“I don’t have a whole lot of good to say about Raymond,” said Lorrie Griffin Moss, 48, with a laugh. She grew up directly across the street from Washington on 76th Street, just west of Wadsworth. “Raymond was a bully. A muscular bully. He wouldn’t let anybody from outside our neighborhood bother us. He would bother us. Raymond could be very mean.”

Washington was known as a great street fighter.“Raymond could really toss ’em,” said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Wayne Caffey, referring to Washington’s fist skills as a street fighter. Caffey’s cousin attended Fremont High School, where Washington was occasionally schooled when he wasn’t kicked out for fighting. “He was an awesome football player, but he didn’t want to play organized ball. He wanted to be a knucklehead.”

Raymond, Caffey said, deplored guns and considered those who brought guns to a fight to be punks.

Washington — who had three older brothers — was a street legend, especially to his one younger brother.

“He was real, real good with his hands. He could bring it from the shoulders. Like Mike Tyson  in his prime,” said Derard Barton, 46, who added that his brother had 18-inch arms and a 50-inch chest. “He weighed abut 215. All muscle. I never saw my brother lose a fight, except to my older brothers when he was real young. But when he got older, he could even take them.”

Even youths miles away from Washington’s 76th Street neighborhood remember him.“I remember that Raymond Washington was a hog,” said Ronald “Kartoon” Antwine, a community activist from Watts who remembers seeing the Crips founder at the Watts Summer Festival. “By hog, I mean Raymond would take his shirt off and fight his ass off all day long.”

Washington was kicked out of every school he ever attended for fighting. He would go away to juvenile detention camps and be sure to let everyone know when he was back in the neighborhood, said Griffin Moss.“He’d go away for a few months, and when he came back, he come up to my dad and mom and say, “Hey, Mr. Griffin, I’m back. Hello, Mrs. Griffin. I’m back.”

His younger brother remembers Raymond fondly and proudly.“He was like a Robin Hood type a person, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor,” said Derard Barton from his home in Phoenix. 

Washington admired the Black Panthers and tried for a while to emulate them as a youth. He eventually joined the local gang called the Avenues led by a youth named Craig Munson. He later left the Avenues after “he kicked Craig Munson’s brother’s ass,” according to Detective Caffey.He started his own gang.

The origin of the name Crips has many tales, has become folklore. Some, including Tookie, have said the name came from Raymond’s gang the Baby Avenues, which became the Avenue Cribs. In a drunken state, Cribs mispronounced their name into Crips.

However, Washington’s brother and Griffin Moss say the name simply came from an injury that one of Raymond’s older brothers incurred.“My older brother Reggie was kind of bowlegged, and then he twisted his ankle bad one time, and he was walking with a limp, so he put “Crip” on his Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars and Raymond took the name,” said younger brother Derard.

As for Raymond’s nickname, he was sometimes referred to as Ray Ray — as many Rays are for some reason — but mainly he was just called Raymond.“Raymond didn’t need a nickname,” said Derard Barton.

Barton said being the younger brother of the founder of the Crips had some benefits.“Sometimes I would get into fights, but once people knew I was Raymond Washington’s brother, they were the nicest people in the world to me,” said Barton, who works at a hospital for disabled people as a behavioral health technician. “Plus, no one ever broke into our house. He was really a goodhearted person. He was really kind to elderly people. He liked to fight, yeah, but if he liked you, he’d treat you so well. If he didn’t like you, he would hate you.”

Raymond had a simple and very effective tactic of expanding the Crips.“He would go to the leader of another gang and fight him,” said Derard Barton. “He went straight to their main man. Once he put the guy on his back, everyone else would join up and follow him.”

Said Detective Caffey: “He went to other neighborhoods and said, ‘Either join me or become my enemy.’  

Most kids living on the edge of thuggery joined. Some did not. Those that were fighters, who were not intimidated, kept to their own gangs.

Eventually, the pressure of the Crips became so intense, so bloody, that the other gangs — the Piru in Compton and the Brims near USC — aligned themselves into a loosely knit gang group called the Bloods. The Swans and Bounty Hunters also signed on with the Bloods alliance. And the bloody battle of South Los Angeles, Watts and Compton was on.

Although inspired by the Black Panthers, Washington and his group never were able to develop an agenda for social change within the community. Early big-shot members included Mack Thomas of the original Compton Crips, Michael “Shaft” Concepcion, Jimel “Godfather” Barnes, Greg “Batman” Davis and Stanley Tookie Williams.

Williams, of course, gained international infamy as his death sentence gained unprecedented publicity. Legend has it that Washington approached Williams to expand his gang to the west side of the Harbor Freeway and Williams became a leader of the Westside Crips.

“It’s just wrong to say Tookie was the founder of the Crips,” said Wes McBride, president of the California Gang Investigators Association.

Moss also remembers Tookie Williams coming by all the time to visit Raymond. “He’d be walking down the street looking like the Pirelli man,” she said. Still, though Williams was killed by the state Tuesday morning and referred to himself as the co-founder of the Crips, many say Raymond Washington is being forgotten.

Many young wannabes calling themselves Crips these days don't even know who Raymond Washington was. It would be like a young Dodger prospect not knowing who was Sandy Koufax.

Back in the 1970s, as the Crips became more deadly and infamous for robbing youths of their black leather jackets and drive-by shootings, Raymond started to become disillusioned with the gang he founded.

“He started running with a black motorcycle goup,” said retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s gang investigator Curtis Jackson. “I think he felt that the youngsters were getting too crazy, getting totally out of control.“My interaction with Raymond was minimal, but he was very approachable,” said Jackson. “I had no trouble talking with him. Most gang members are actually very personable, and I’ve never had any trouble rapping with them. Tookie was an exception, as he always had a few thugs around him, so he always had an attitude.”

On the bleak corner of 64th Street and San Pedro is a drab pink, two-story apartment building — 6326 S. San Pedro St. — complete with runaway weeds, peeling paint, three rusty barbecues and a large cart labeled Rick’s Hot Dogs, all nestled against a ratty chain-link fence.

It was here on an August night in 1979 that Raymond Washington was blown away by a blast from a sawed-off shotgun. Someone inside a car had called out his name, and Washington walked over. The pellets tore into his guts, and he was rushed away to a hospital, where he died.

It was the end of the founder of the Crips, and it was the beginning of the end of the Crips as a united gang.

Though no one was ever arrested, rumors spread — erroneously — that the Hoover Crips (now Hoover Criminals) were responsible. Shootings broke out between Raymond’s Eastside Crips — now known as the East Coast Crips — and the Hoovers.

Right around then, feud broke out between the Rollin’ 60s Crips and the Eight Trey Gangster Crips, and shootings erupted between those large and extremely violent Crips factions. Other Crip sets chose sides, and Crips have been killing Crips ever since then. More even than Crips kill Bloods or Bloods kill Crips.

As much as he relished a good fistfight, Raymond would be sad and disappointed to see what havoc was wreaked on the gang he founded. Rare is the time when two guys meet in an alley or park anymore and “toss ’em.” The days of bringing it from the shoulders were coming to an end, and the days of bringing it from the holster were the way it would be.