Vigil peaceful despite gang threats

Vigil peaceful despite gang threats

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by ANN DOSS HELMS & MEGHAN COOKE / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on March 22, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 11:52 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C -- After a Vance High student’s weekend shooting death, gang-related threats on social media have police on alert at several Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Police officers were among the hundreds who turned out Thursday night at a candlelight vigil for 17-year-old John Darrell Kempson Jr., who was shot to death during a fight Saturday night in southwest Charlotte, where Kempson and his friends had attended a party.

Armani Compton McDonald, 19, has been charged with the killing, and Terry Sekyere, 18, has been charged with assaulting Kempson.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police gang unit has spent the week investigating talk of continued violence involving gangs known as “Trained To Go” and “Young Billionaire Bosses,” according to officials from CMPD and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools police department.

The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, published by the FBI, doesn’t list either group as recognized gangs in North Carolina. But a gang listed as “No Mercy/Trained to Go” was reported in Georgia.

Police presence has been beefed up at Vance, West Mecklenburg, West Charlotte, Myers Park and Harding high schools this week because of comments on social media, said Randy Hagler, deputy chief of the CMS police force.

“It’s all entangled up with kids from four or five different schools,” he said Thursday. So far there has been no violence connected to the gang talk or the weekend incident, he said.

Capt. Coerte Voorhees of CMPD’s Vice and Narcotics Division said the department’s gang unit has worked this week to prevent more violence after learning of rumored threats of retaliation between people associated with Kempson and the two teens charged in his death.

Kempson – nicknamed “Jon Jon” – was a student at Vance, in northeast Charlotte, but had previously been at West Charlotte High.

McDonald is a 2010 graduate of Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, a magnet school in west Charlotte. He is currently enrolled at Winston-Salem State University, Hagler said. Sekyere is a student at West Meck.

Mothers of Murdered Offspring sponsored Thursday night’s vigil, outside St. Paul Baptist Church in the Belmont neighborhood north of uptown.

Chatter on social media referred to possible violence at the vigil or at Kempson’s funeral on Saturday, said Hagler and Sgt. David Schwob, who supervises CMPD officers stationed at schools.

“I just hope Jon Jon’s boys don’t go lurkin for them YBB dudes,” someone wrote recently on Twitter. “Its already Hot and bad as it is.”

But the vigil was peaceful as hundreds mourned Kempson. Many used the vigil as an opportunity to speak directly to young people.

Before the vigil began, Mothers of Murdered Offspring leader Judy Williams spoke to the crowd, saying she had a message for “gangbangers.”

“Real men don’t make mothers cry,” she said. “I’m tired of seeing mothers cry.”

People could be heard sobbing as others took the microphone, including many of Kempson’s friends, who described him as a funny young man who “always had your back.”

“Jon Jon’s life – if it meant something to you – make a change,” Williams said.

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