Latin Kings (gang)
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|Membership||50,000 in the U.S., proven number unknown.|
|Criminal activities||Drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, murder, assault, robbery, auto theft, racketeering.|
|Rivals||Folk Nation gangs, Sureños, MS-13, Los Solidos, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Tiny Rascal Gang|
The Latin King street gang was formed in Humboldt Park in Chicago in the early 1950s. They saw themselves as a Latino progress movement to improve quality in immigrant families overcoming racial discrimination and founded the organization on the philosophy of "overcoming racial prejudice" and creating an organization of "Kings" and "Queens". They devolved, however, into a criminal enterprise operating throughout the United States. There are two umbrella factions: the Motherland, also known as KMC (King Manifesto and Constitution), and Bloodline (New York City). All members of the gang identify themselves as Latin Kings.
Latin Kings associating with the Motherland faction also identify themselves as "Almighty Latin King Nation (ALKN)"; they make up more than 160 structured chapters operating in 158 cities in 31 states. The membership in Chicago is estimated to be 20,000 to 35,000.
The Bloodline Manifesto was founded by Luis "King Blood" Felipe in 1986 in the New York State Collins Correctional Facility. Latin Kings associating with New York State Bloodline Chapter also identify themselves as the "Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN)". Membership is estimated to be as many as 7,500, divided among several dozen Tribes operating in 15 cities in five states. New York State Bloodline Latin Kings share a common culture and structure with KMC and respect them as the Motherland, but not all chapters report to the Chicago leadership hierarchy.
The Latin Kings have a hierarchical organizational structure. They have numerous "chapters" or "tribes" around the country which adhere to a regional, state, and national system. Officers are supported by a "Crown Council" of the 5 Crowns Council members. The Council sets rules and regulations and holds disciplinary hearings.
The hierarchy rises to regional officers and ultimately to two supreme regional "Incas" based in Chicago. The heads of the entire criminal organization are known as "coronas". One retired detective said in 2004: "When you compare them to other street gangs like the Bloods and the Crips, none compare to the organization of the Latin Kings."
When any member believes that another member has violated a regulation, they begin the disciplinary process by submitting a Procedures for Violation Form. This form includes a variety of information about the allegation, including the violation, the statement of the accused, and members present or other witnesses. If the member is found to be guilty of the violation at their Crown hearing, they may be subject to a range of penalties depending on the severity of the offense:
- Probation – for a period ranging between two weeks and two months, can be imposed in addition to other punishments
- Fines (Multas) – may also be used as a way to recoup the expense of gang property when it is destroyed or lost by a member
- Stripping – the member is stripped of rank and titles, unlikely to ever rise to the previous rank again
- Suspension – the member is stripped of all offices and duties, is not permitted to wear the colors, and is addressed as a novice
- Community service – particular assignments made on a case-by-case basis
- B.O.S. (Beat on sight) – beating of undetermined length of time
- Three minute physical – three-minute beating by at least three members
- Five minute physical – five-minute beating by five members
- T.O.S. (Terminate on sight) – death
The Latin King colors are black and gold. Gang markings consist of a five- or three-point "sacred crown", writings of LK, ALK, ALKN, ALKQN abbreviations (or the whole words), and drawings of the Lion or the King Master. Latin King symbolism is usually accompanied with the name and number of the Tribe, region, or city of the gang. The Latin Kings are members of the People Nation alliance of gangs, and are therefore opposed to the rival Folk Nation gang alliance.
L.A. Kaufman wrote in the February 2015 issue of New York Magazine that the Kings had a "unique mixture of intense discipline, revolutionary politics and a homemade religion called 'Kingism'". He suggests that this makes "a potent mixture for troubled ghetto kids whose lives lacked structure and hope." Kingism is a blend of tribal gang rhetoric and religious mysticism. As one member put it, the Manifesto is "considered our Bible", and reading it is to go "from the darkness to the light".
The Latin Kings operate under strict codes and guidelines that are conveyed in a lengthy constitution, and they follow the teachings of the King Manifesto. According to the Manifesto, there are three stages or cycles of Nation life that constitute Kingism:
- The Primitive Stage: "That stage in life where the King warrior acts on impulse, executing his action without giving them the serious thought that they demand. A stage of immaturity where the King warrior's time is spent gang banging, getting high, and being recognized as big and bad."
- The Conservative Stage: "At this level the King warrior becomes tired of the primitive stage. He no longer wishes to participate in the senseless routine of gang fighting, hanging on the corner or being recognized as big and bad. Most often at this level the King warrior gets married and retires. It is inappropriate to call this stage maturity stage due to the fact that the King warrior at this time does not really become mature in the sense of maturity. Instead he becomes mummified or reaches a level of accepting life as it has been taught to him by the existing system that exploits all people of color-dehumanizes them and maintains them under the economic and social yoke of slavery."
- The New King Stage: "The stage of awareness and decision. The new King recognizes that the time for revolution is at hand. Revolution of the mind! The revolution of knowledge! A revolution that will bring freedom to the enslaved, to all Third World people as we together sing and praise with joy what time it is-it is Nation time! ... For him there are no horizons between races, sexes and senseless labels. for him everything has meaning, human life is placed above materialistic values ... When a man become a new King the will of the Nation becomes his will, for to be at variance with the Nation is one thing that cannot endure. The Almighty Latin King Nation requires wholehearted and complete devotion."
According to the Manifesto, "The New King no longer views the rival warrior as the cause of his ills; instead, he fights against the Anti-King System (social injustices and inequality)".
King Motherland Chicago Latin Kings
The Chicago faction of the Latin Kings is recognized as the largest Hispanic street gang in the United States and one of the largest Chicago-based street gangs. Their greatest membership is within the United States, unlike MS-13 and 18th Street gang, whose greatest membership exists in Central and South America. The gang has more than 25,000 members in the city of Chicago alone and has organized chapters in 41 states and several Latin American and European countries, including Mexico, Spain, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Canada, Italy, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, United Kingdom, and others.
Bloodline Latin Kings
The Bloodline Latin Kings are a faction of the Latin Kings headquartered in New York.
In the early 1980s, to avoid imprisonment for his criminal activities in Chicago, Luis Felipe (a.k.a. King Blood) fled to New York. Soon after arriving in New York Felipe was arrested and convicted of murdering his girlfriend. In 1986, while in prison, Felipe started his own chapter of the Latin Kings known as the Bloodline. He designated himself as Inca and Supreme Crown of the state of New York. In 1995 Antonio Fernandez (a.k.a. King Tone) was designated Inca and Supreme Crown of New York State and New Jersey, and the ALKQN once again began a transformation.
Street gang: 1986–1995
In 1991, Felipe was returned to prison after a short release for parole violations stemming from the receipt of stolen goods. However, Felipe continued to guide the ALKQN members, who now numbered about 2,000, both incarcerated and free. In 1994, with the rapid growth of the Latin Kings, an internal power struggle erupted and violence within the Kings ensued. Between June 1993 and February 1994, seven Latin Kings were murdered. Following the outbreaks of internal gang violence, Luis Felipe and 19 others were charged with murder and racketeering; the indictments ended in 1995 with 39 Latin Kings and 1 Latin Queen indicted under the RICO Act.
The details of the charges against Felipe were later revealed: Felipe was charged with ordering the killing of William (Lil Man) Cartagena. Cartegena was taken to an abandoned Bronx apartment where he was strangled, decapitated, mutilated and his corpse set on fire. Although Felipe was in prison, the government later alleged he had ordered a TOS ("Terminate On Sight") to all Latin Kings for the murder of Cartagena. This letter and many others were how Felipe was initially linked to three murders on the streets of New York; testimony from former Kings was used as further evidence of the orders. The letters had been copied and stored by the NY Department of Corrections, who were not aware of the significance of the letters until a federal task force was formed that included NYPD homicide investigators, FBI agents, and DOC investigators.
In 1996, following the trial of Luis Felipe, Antonio Fernandez, who was recently blessed as the Inca and Supreme Crown of New York State kneeled with other Latin Kings in front of the Federal District Court in Manhattan and is quoted as stating, "It's time for a fresh start ... Now they can't hold our past against us." 1996 is believed to be the beginning of the ALKQN's transformation from a street gang to a "street organization."
Latin Kings and Queens began appearing en masse at political demonstrations in support of the Latino community. To further its transformation and efforts to legitimize, the organization began to hold its monthly meetings (universals) at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Harlem. At this time, the membership of the Latin Kings is believed to have swelled to 3,000 incarcerated and 4,000 free. The monthly universals drew attendance of 500–600 regularly. Internal changes to the organization began to take place as Fernandez amended the ALKQN manifesto to include parliamentary elections and new procedures for handling inter-organizational grievances and removing death as a possible punishment, replacing it with "vanishing", the act of being banished from the movement.
For the ALKQN, 1997 began with Felipe being sentenced to the harshest penalty passed down since World War II. Felipe was sentenced to 250 years in prison, the first 45 to be spent in solitary confinement. He was a close friend of criminal (YACS) member Pavle Stanimirovic writes about it as he witnessed this brutality in Solitary confinement. The other 39 members were sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison for their roles in the crimes. The year would bring further legal troubles as Fernandez and 31 others are arrested in a raid in the Lower East Side and charged with disorderly conduct. The Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools soon after charges the ALKQN with infiltrating the school system; a school security guard with five years of service was dismissed on charges of unprofessional conduct for his association with the Latin Kings. The year came to a close with Fernandez being arrested in December by the FBI for domestic abuse.
The pending charges against Fernandez were dropped in early 1998. Following the release of Fernandez, a joint operation of the FBI, New York City Police Department (NYPD), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), New York State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) comes to a close with the arrests of 92 suspected ALKQN members. The Latin King leadership insists over half of those arrested are not members. The operation, dubbed Operation Crown, cost the city over one million dollars and took 19 months to complete.
Fernandez was released after four days on $350,000 bail, which was paid for by contributions from community members must mandatory pay their dues collected every week that goes into the "Caja" Box that the treasurer would be in charge of collecting. Over half of the arrested were charged with misdemeanors, other were charged with weapons possession and drug trafficking. Fernandez was eventually permitted, though on house arrest, to attend monthly universal meetings. It was during his time on house arrest that the Latin Queens underwent a shake up in leadership, dismissing many of the leaders in order to bring in more politically focused members.
The Latin Kings during this period begin to gain legitimacy. First, Lolita Lebrón, who was a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, appointed the New York State ALKQN to protect her during a demonstration in front of the United Nations. Following the U.N. demonstration, Rafael Cancel-Miranda, a Puerto Rican nacionalista who spent 25 years in federal prison, attended a monthly universal. Before years' end, Adelfa Vera, Puerto Rican activist, attended a monthly universal and was given sacred ALKQN beads by the present leadership. Adelfa was praised during the meeting and stated "These kids are hope for our liberation struggle. I can die in peace, because we found the continuation."
In 1998, Fernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell and distribute heroin. In 1999, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, which he began serving at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and was placed in solitary confinement. He was eventually transferred again and placed in general population. He has since been released.
Operation Dethrone was an investigation by the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force, consisting of the FBI, the Chicopee Police Department, the Hampden County Sheriff's Department, the Holyoke Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, the Springfield Police Department, and the West Springfield Police Department. The first phase of the investigation, went after the Lawrence chapter of the ALKQN, was converted to an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force/High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area case involving numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. After the significant disruption of the Lawrence chapter in February 2004, information provided by cooperating defendants led to the significant disruption of the Springfield chapter in June 2005. 57 ALKQN members have been indicted.
The Latin Kings in Spain were founded in Madrid in February 2002 by Ecuadorian national Eric Javier Vara Velastegui. Branches then followed in Barcelona, Valencia and Murcia. Membership is predominantly Ecuadorian, although other Latin American and Spanish youths have also been recruited. According to a report by the Madrid government commission, there are approximately one-hundred active members and six-hundred associates in the city. In Spain, the Ñetas are the main rivals of the Latin Kings. Such Latin American gangs spread to Spain as a result of mass deportations from the United States of Latin American immigrants with criminal records. The Latin Kings were registered as a cultural association in Catalonia in September 2006.
Eric Javier Vara Velastegui received a forty-year prison sentence for rape, violent assault and kidnapping in June 2006. In February 2011, Velastegui had an additional four years added to his sentence after being convicted of directing the gang from prison, while lieutenants Jose Fabricio Icaza and Maria Torres were sentenced to three-and-a-half years' and two years' imprisonment, respectively.
The inner circle of the Latin Kings in Madrid was dismantled when fifty-four members were arrested during a police operation carried out in February 2010. A substantial amount of documentation relating to the gang and its organization, as well as gang paraphernalia such as necklaces to denote rank within the gang, black and gold flags, neckscarves and rings, was also confiscated.
While originally the Latin Kings are thought to be a male organization, it eventually began to absorb women and give them an equal share. The Latin Queens constituted the female Queen Anubis and Queen Maat of the ALKQN.
The Latin Queen agenda is composed of self-respect, independence, family support, ethnic identity and self-empowerment. Seeking such goals has attracted a wide variety of females who had been drug addicted, victimized and/or neglected by families, spouses and partners. Sociologists studying the Latin Kings and Queens have observed the different methods in which both groups attempt to "reclaim and regulate" their environments. The Latin Queens are believed to focus more on their private space issues such as home life and protection and nurturing of their bodies, as opposed to the Latin Kings, who are more concerned with loss of public spaces in their own communities.
The evolution of the ALKQN has been viewed by outside sources as being assisted by the addition and greater role in which Queen Loki and Queen Vailor have played, exposing the ALKQN to a greater range of cross-class supporters than would have been possible prior to their integration. In countries such as Spain, Latin Queens are helping to legitimize the ALKQN through integration with government sponsored programs. In Catalonia, the 200 persons including Queen Tragedy and King Zeus and the rest of the Latin Kings and Queens tribe was designated as the Cultural Association of Latin Kings and Queens of Catalonia. The "cultural program" designation was bestowed through government sponsored programs to assist gangs with integration into society and is led by Latin Queen Melody, Erika Jaramillo.
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Kingism--adding idealism and a bootcamp rigor to the usual gang camaraderie.
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