Prosecuting gang violence: 'We're coming after you' - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Prosecuting gang violence: 'We're coming after you'


We're learning more about what is in store for the three gang members jailed in connection with a fatal park shooting.  

Rakheem Goldstein, Dennis Bendy and Ke'Avier Wilson-Hurd are all charged with murder. Police say they were involved in a shoot-out that lead to the death of  20-year-old Briana Young. Young was caught in the crossfire of the shooting last month.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says there are multiple ways to prosecute gang-related crimes, and the shooting in north Tyler falls under a statute that hasn't been used here in years.

"What it says in a nutshell is this... if this guy wasn't here looking for a gang fight with this guy... and this guy wasn't here looking for a gang fight with this guy... this shooting wouldn't have occurred. So, their conduct concurrently is what results in the death," explains Bingham

It doesn't matter whose gun the fatal shot came from. Under the law, everyone can be held equally responsible.

"We don't have to know whose bullet killed the victim. I tried one of those cases back in the early 90s," says Bingham.

That was in September of  1996 at Loop 323 and Highway 64 in Tyler. Bingham says a gang was gathered in the parking lot of the Activity Center, when a rival gang drove through the lot, and a gunfight broke out. A stray bullet killed Thomas Murphy who had left a school function at the Activity Center moments earlier.

"A bullet came in the back window of his vehicle, struck him in the back of the head, came out his forehead and the bullet lodged in the dashboard here," explains Bingham.

The cones marked just some of the shots fired that night. Authorities didn't know which gang member's stray bullet hit Murphy, but they didn't have to, because of the same tools Bingham's office has at their disposal today.

"We have options under the law. We've done it before and we're going to do it again and let [gang members] know that when you bring your fight to the public arena and you put the lives of the citizens in danger...we're going after you," says Bingham.

The penal code dual causation statute that Bingham is referring to states, "A person is criminally responsible if the result would not have occurred but for his conduct, operating either alone or concurrently with another cause, unless the concurrent cause was clearly sufficient to produce the result and the conduct of the actor clearly insufficient."

"We did it back when I tried these multiple defendants in 1996. We were successful. They're all in the penitentiary serving life sentences today and we're going to use it in the gang violence that we have today," says Bingham.

The Activity Center murder in 1996 was one of the first times this prosecution strategy was used in the State of Texas. In that case, about seven gang members were convicted of murder.

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