Gang slaying has police, residents concerned

By:  Michael P. McConnell (Daily Tribune)

January 13, 2010

gang-slaying

FERNDALE — The city’s first gang slaying has residents and police concerned about future gang activity in Ferndale, said Police Chief Michael Kitchen.

“This fatal shooting was a wake-up call for us and the residents to be on guard against gang behavior,” Kitchen said of last month’s shooting at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. “Thankfully, we solved the murder quickly after a lot of hard investigative work. There’s an undercurrent of gang activity in the region. We are now very aware of it and the threat it poses.”

Police ran up against the gang world’s code of silence and threats of fresh violence against rival members following the fatal shooting Dec. 19 at a hall rented for two Ferndale High School girls’ Sweet 16 birthday party.

Police said they subsequently learned that the word on the street among gangs is to avoid bringing weapons into Ferndale.

“We heard from gang members that Ferndale police were more likely to catch you in the act, or if you did do something and got away you would be tracked down,” said Ferndale police Lt. William Wilson. “Also, being in Oakland County, gang members seem to realize that they are more likely to do time for something than they are in Wayne County.”

But until last month, Ferndale police did not have any regular contact with gang members or the thug culture they subscribe to, Wilson added.

“It made us more aware that we are going to have to be more educated as to the gang activity in cities like Detroit and Royal Oak Township that border our community,” he said.

Bobby “Prince” McGowan, 19, of Detroit was arraigned Friday in Ferndale 43rd District Court on open murder, attempted murder and other charges in the VFW hall slaying.

McGowan fired a sawed-off shotgun and struck a Royal Oak Township boy, 16, in the stomach, police said. The bullet went through the Township teen and fatally struck Charles Dorchy, 16, of Detroit. The township teen has since been released from the hospital and is recovering, police said.

The victims and McGowan were members of rival gangs that crashed the party for two 16-year-old Ferndale High School girls.

Ferndale police said they worked hundreds of hours before they got enough information to charge McGowan.

“There are all these kinds of gang behaviors and unofficial rules that we didn’t know about before this case,” Wilson said.

Police arrested and released three other suspects in the case before the suspect was charged.

Ferndale worked with several other law enforcement agencies, including undercover units and the Detroit police gang squad.

Wilson said the realities of thug or gang behavior are puzzling to most reasonable people.

“There was nothing logical about this murder,” he said. “The suspect was there with several other fellow gang members, as were the victims who belonged to a different gang. They had no prior trouble or conflict with each other.”

The gang members did not show up at the girls’ birthday party looking for trouble. But

there was tension because the two different gangs were there. Soon the gang members started posturing, name calling, and making gang signs with their hands before someone started shoving, Wilson said.

“That’s when the suspect overreacted, pulled out a gun and decided a sticks-and-stones insult was worth shooting people over,” he said. “It started out as posturing and went way beyond anything normal.”

Ferndale police officials say they are determined to keep gang violence out of the city.

Though Ferndale has had two other shootings involving suspects from outside the city in the past year, those cases did not result in serious injuries and weren’t gang-related, police said. Suspects were arrested and charged in both incidents.

Kitchen said his department is staying in touch with Detroit police gang investigators and is keeping surveillance crews busy to thwart further gang violence in Ferndale.

Ferndale is a tight-knit community where residents and neighbors tend to watch out for each other, police said.

“I can’t predict too much into the future,” Kitchen said. “But I think we sent a strong message in this (fatal) shooting. I don’t think there’s going to be too much interest in having gang activity in Ferndale.”

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1 Comment for “Gang slaying has police, residents concerned”

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