Renewed focus on gang violence after recent conviction

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–A known MS-13 gang member now faces years in prison for a murder near Richmond’s Pony Pasture.

Just days ago the killer in a 2011 summertime shooting that left one person dead was convicted.

People in Chesterfield may also remember Devin Hawkins, a thirteen-year-old boy that police say was killed after being caught in the crossfire of gang members’ bullets. These are just two examples of how gang violence has shattered the lives of area families.

A representative from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office says gang violence in our area is very prevalent. Caroline Gibson showed CBS 6 a video their office uses as tool to share perspective on how big a problem gang activity is.

 She says the Attorney General has put a huge emphasis on prosecuting these kinds of crimes.

“In the first seven months of 2012 we had 17 convictions for a total of 359 years of incarceration,” Gibson said. She also explained that the range of crimes being committed by gang members includes rape, murder, human trafficking and even child porn.

CBS 6 has also learned that a new regional gang task force is in the works.

Several localities are in the process of obtaining a Memorandum of Understanding. They include Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Richmond and Virginia State Police. A spokesperson with State Police tells us they are in the very early stages.

Richmonder Phillip King, Jr. believes that group will have its work cut out for them. He speaks very candidly with us about committing crimes and going to jail when he was just fifteen-years-old. In his 21 years King says he has witnessed a friend get shot to death and he learned of another friend facing decades in jail for committing a murder.

These things, plus the help of some concerned coaches and community members changed his perspective on life.

He says whether a young person is considering joining a gang or just living a life of crime on the streets, his message is, ’it’s just not worth it.’

“I know I was stupid but for real, my mom she raised me right,” he said. “She raised me and my brothers’ right.”

He said he chose to do the wrong things, and thought he was “being cool” but realized that there’s more to life than that.

“I have a son coming in May and I know that it’s all about being a good example,” King said. “I want to set an example for him.”