String of Racially-Motivated Attacks Hits Denver, Police Arrest 34 Suspects

All but one of 35 suspects has been arrested by Denver police in connection with a string of racially motivated beatings and robberies in the Mile-High City. Those arrested are all black males, including some juveniles. Their alleged victims were white or Latino males.

Most of the suspects told police they are associated with either the Rollin’ 60s Crips gang or the Black Disciples gang. Their arrests this month followed a four-month investigation by a task force composed of Denver police, the district attorney’s office and the FBI into 26 assaults in the downtown Denver area. Typically, four or five black men would taunt their targets with racial epithets, trying to goad them into a fight, police said. Then the suspects would beat the victims, sometimes robbing them of their wallets, cell phones and iPods. Many of the victims suffered broken noses or eye sockets, Police Chief Gerry Whitman said.

There was no ringleader in the assaults, but the attackers were in communication with each other, Whitman said. Those arrested were charged with crimes that include bias-motivated assault and robbery. In September, police asked the public for help in solving 14 downtown assaults, but did not mention the racial aspect to the crimes. That has prompted some criticism, but police defend their decision, saying that full disclosure might have jeopardized their undercover effort to solve the crimes.

The Rollin’ 60s Crips is the largest black criminal street gang in Los Angeles, with more than 1,600 active members in 2004, according to a report that year by the Los Angeles Police Department. It is an offshoot of the city’s original crip gang, Westside Crips, and was formed in 1976. Members have been involved in bank robberies, drug trafficking, carjackings, homicides and other crimes, police said.

The Black Disciples was formed on the south side of Chicago about 40 years ago. It is “one of the most violent of four African-American gangs that hang out on the south side of Chicago,” according to the FBI. In addition to violence, the gang is known for its distribution of crack cocaine, the FBI says.

“They both are active in the Denver area,” said Denver Police Department spokesman Sonny Jackson.