Interview with Ken Bell, Retired Gang Investigator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

By Alex Alonso
StreetGangs.Com Staff Writer
December 11, 2006

I had the pleasure of talking with Ken Bell, a retired gang investigator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who knows alot about gangs in Los Angeles, especially that early history that I find very rich and important in understanding contemporary gang issues. I published an article on the formation of the Bloods in Los Angeles for the December 2006 issue of The Source Magazine and interviewed Mr. Bell about those early days. Because the article only includes a few quotes from the various persons I spoke to, I transcribed the entire interview and posted it below for your viewing pleasure.

AA: The Crips are the larger group of the two, but most people don’t know how the Bloods started, can you give me any insight in how did the Bloods form?

KB: I can only tell you what was told to me because I am not going to act like I was sitting there when they formed, but the very question has intrigued me too also, from what I recalled from talking to the older guys, the Bloods started basically behind protecting themselves from the Crips. When you hear the term Bounty Hunter, was allegedly created to go hunt Crips. But the Brims don’t get enough acknowledgement in the entire Blood process, you hear more about the Pirus, but the Brims were very formidable back in the day, but they started to confront the massive number of Crips, but they were always smaller but they were a bit more organized than some of the other neighborhoods.

People always want to contest who were the first or who started what, but I can tell you about the original guys who the gang units were looking, or who were the formidable gang members who were the leaders from a law enforcement perspective. You may be able to tell me about some guy around the corner who was the first guy, and I cant contest that, but I can tell you who we were looking for and names of the guys that law enforcement were concerned with.

AA: Were you familiar with Bobby Lavender?

KB: Oh man yeah, yeah!

AA: Would you characterize him as a leader of the Bishops?

KB: I would say that Bobby was one of the leaders, and the Bishops were actually around a little before all of that stuff, now that you mention it, they used to have gang meetings in San Diego, but yeah Bobby was definitely one of the major leaders back in the day.

AA: Why do you think the Brims didn’t join up with the Crips?

KB: I can’t tell you why they didn’t, I just know that they didn’t. They were very formidable, all around the Coliseum area and they held their own, big time.

AA: What years did you patrol LA as a Sheriff Deputy.

KB: From 1964, I stopped four years ago, I did it for 36 years.

AA: Can you tell me about the Blood alliance?

KB: I think there is given too much credit to this alliance, I think that history is very sketchy, but the gangs of LA have very little organizational structure, and it is hard for them to stick together. In 1984 I got in trouble because they wanted me to say that the Crips & Bloods were going to come in and tear up the Coliseum during the 1984 Olympics, and I said, ‘where did you get that from?’ And one of the biggest myths is that the gang members are that organized.

AA: Well, historically the Bloods did not have rivalries among each other, I know that some of that has changed, but for the most part the Blood neighborhoods would not fight each other.

KB: Today there’s are a lot conflict with different Bloods gangs now, but it was a survival tactic back then, because they were out numbered. They had to stick with each other. Why would you fight another Blood when there are only 30 of you and there are 100 Crips? They united that way. But right now the older Bloods are so perplexed at what is going on, they have no idea of what to do with the youngsters, they have fallen away of any semblance unity they had.

Ken Bell giving a lecture on gangs

AA: In June of 1972 Lil Country, a Brim member was murdered by the Crips, and he was the first Brim to be murdered and it let others know that the Crips could kill. Do you recall that incident.

KB: I do remember Lil Country being killed, but I don’t recall it being a galvanizing incident. No more so than Salty getting killed or Oldie being killed. But I don’t remember it like that.

AA: Who were some of the major Blood members from them days.

KB: JB, Jan Brewer is one of the first guys that comes to mind. He was actually born and raised in a Crip area, then moved to the Inglewood area and was one of the original guys from Inglewood Family. The other two names that were respected as shot callers back in the day were “Puddin” and “Tam” from Compton.

AA: What’s your view of how gangster rap has exploded LA gang culture.

KB: Are you sure you want to get into that? Bloods in those other cities are not like here in LA, they have a different way, back east it is different, they use the names, but the officers there don’t recognize the difference. You have to be real careful when you say Crips and Bloods, you have ask now east coast or west coast? But the majority of the gangster rap guys are not real gang members, they are not, take the names of these dudes, and go to their hoods and I can tell you that they are not respected as true gang bangers from their hood, guaranteed. There is one guy that was gang bangin’ and made a big name that I am not going to mention, but the rest of them have utilized it as a money making deal. For the gangster rappers it is very profitable. If you watch some of the DVDs that you sell on your site, the real gangsters talk about these rappers like a dog.
For example Ice Cube grew up in the N-Hoods but he is not a N-Hood but he knows all those dudes. Ask someone in Inglewood who has some clout about Mack 10 and see what they have to say. That’s all I have to say about that.

AA: Do you think these gangster rappers have had a major impact on how gangs have become popular in other cities.

Snoop Dogg

KB: It has been romanticized, the booty poppin’ thing is big, you see all these young guys in the videos with all this money, and you see the subculture that has been perpetrated, and honestly it ties into some of the stuff that Bill Cosby has been taking about. The rap videos has taken the kids and has made them think that if you are a tough guy, you are going to get the girls, the money and the car. The average guy tells me that it is hard to get any status out here because all the girls want a rough neck. You even got Beyonce talking about she wants a soldier. So how are you going to get a girl if you are not a soldier? That’s the problem with rap music videos, but does it have nice bumping sounds? Yes it does, but the subliminal message is devastating. You have Snoop Dogg saying “I keep a BLUE flag hanging out my backside But only on the LEFT side, yeah that’s the CRIP side,” but yeah that perpetuates that whole gang stuff, but Snoop is probably as much a gang member as you and I, but he makes money and he is cool with it, and that’s him. But it is too bad not more responsibility is there. I think it is the demise of our young people, behind not just the gangster rap, but pop culture in general. It has created a subculture that has become very destructive.

AA: Do you think blame and responsibility should be placed on some of the early guys who started all this gang bangin in LA and how it has now become a national issue?

KB: No, the blame should be put in two places, the Parents of our children, & ESPECIALLY THE FATHERS that didn’t take control of their homes and let the negative forces take over.


Ken Bell was recently featured in episode #1 of BET’s American Gangster about the life of executed Crip member Stanley Tookie Williams. Mr. Bell can be contacted online at http://www/

Posted by on Dec 11 2006. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Interview with Ken Bell, Retired Gang Investigator for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office”

  1. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in truth used to be a leisure account it. Glance advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how can we keep up a correspondence?

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