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Sunday, September 10, 2006

US Street Gangs - The Latin Kings

The Latin Kings started out as a social organization for the advancement of the Puerto Rican community in the Chicago area in the 1940s. The organization spread nationally, and by the 1970s it came to be dominated by individuals engaged in criminal activity, in particular, narcotics trafficking.

Members of the Latin Kings identify themselves with the colors gold and black, the five pointed star or the initials ALKN (Almighty Latin King Nation). Some have tattoos of royal crowns (a common symbol for the gang) on their bodies. The Latin kings also use a symbol called "The Master" which is a picture of a Kings head with one tear drop. The Latin Kings wear beads around their necks in a pattern of five black and five gold.

Today, the Latin Kings are associated with the People Nation and is one of the most violent street gangs in the United States. The Chicago Crime Commission estimates that there are over 20,000 Latin Kings in the Chicago area alone. Latin Kings are also found on the East Coast, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South America, and Madrid. This last set has proven controversial, however, as many hispanics regard Spaniards as white European oppresors rather than part of the "Latino brown" community. There are Latin American barrios in Madrid.

During the 1980s, Felix Millet and Nelson Millan, two inmates in the Connecticut prison system, created the Almighty Latin King Nation of Connecticut. They fine tuned the concept of the Chicago Latin Kings and created a King Manifesto. This manifesto was their rules, procedures and concept guide. It explained Kingism. It was carefully contemplated. The word of Millet and Millan spread through the Connecticut prison system rapidly. Soon the Latin Kings, also called the Almighty Latin Charter Nation, became the largest gang in Connecticut.

In 1986, Luis Felipe, calling himself King Blood, took the Connecticut King Manifesto and added a few of his own writings and prayers. He formed the Almighty Latin King Nation of New York State at the Collins Correctional Institution. He was serving a lengthy sentence for attempting to kill his live-in girlfriend. Within a few years, the Latin Kings spread through the New York State Prison system and onto the streets. New York City, by the early 1990s had several hundred members which grew into the thousands throughout New York State and nearby New Jersey by the mid 1990s.

Although Felipe was incarcerated, he produced many loyal Latin Kings who, upon release from prison, hit the streets and recruited. These loyal soldiers established chapters throughout New York, New Jersey and certain areas of Pennsylvania. These chapters were called tribes and used animal names, such as Tiger Tribe, Wolf Tribe and Lion Tribe to label the different chapters. Each chapter maintained their own hierarchical structure. The leader was the Primera Corona (First Crown), the second in command was the Segunda Corona or second crown, the third crown was the "Warlord" or "Enforcer", the fourth crown was the Counselor (and conducted the Latin King training lessons), and the fifth crown was the Treasurer (responsible for collecting the weekly dues and fines.)

By 1994, New York City experienced the reality of the Latin Kings. They were the most violent and largest street gang New York City had ever seen. By 1995, the Latin Kings were subject of a massive RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) investigation being conducted by the United States Attorney's Office, FBI-New York and the NYPD. It resulted in the arrest of several dozen members of the Latin Kings on a multitude of charges, including arson and murder. The Latin Kings were found to be connected with dozens of murders, kidnappings, drug deals and assaults. All defendants but one, Luis Felipe, pled guilty. After trial, Luis Felipe was sentenced to life in prison with no parole. He is currently serving at the Supermax prison ADX Florence in Florence Colorado.

In 1996, the new leader of the Latin Kings in New York, which seemed to be spearheading other East Coast Latin King chapters, was Antonio "King Tone" Fernandez. Fernandez attempted to polish the image of the Latin Kings by the use of the media, selected sympathizers and political organizations. He advocated the Latin Kings as a brotherhood of men and women attempting to better their lives and communities through unity and education. Striving to perfect that end, King Tone, sought the help of the Calientemix Organization, to create workshops and counseling to members. However, as Fernandez went on a mass media spree of propaganda, the NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney's Office targeted Fernandez and the Latin Kings.

By 1999, this joint investigation (now labeled Operation Crown and including the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, United States Attorney's Office, Bronx District Attorney's Office, FBI and the NYPD) resulted in the arrest of over one hundred (100) members of the Latin Kings in New York and New Jersey, including King Tone. The charges included conspiracy to distribute narcotics, narcotics possession, weapons possession and murder. In February 1999, Antonio “King Tone" Fernandez plead guilty to charges related to this arrest and denounced the Latin Kings in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn. Fernandez received a twelve year sentence to a maximum security prison in Terre Haute.

Violent behavior is the hallmark of the Latin Kings; they are also involved in the sale of drugs, weapons trafficking, and providing protection. As a result of the many ALKN gang leaders who have been incarcerated, the leadership of this gang still has the ability to orchestrate rules and policies from within the prison system. The Almighty Latin King Nation is one of the largest and most violent criminal organizations in the U.S.

The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation: Street Politics and the Transformation of a New York City Gang


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