Authorities say they fear that the recent slaying of a teen points to growing gang violence in Augusta.
Marquez Eubanks, 19, died after being shot at a house party on E. Kensington Drive on July 18. Two other men were wounded.
The man police arrested in the homicide, Dijon Cortez Abbott, 19, is a member of the south Augusta gang 23’rd, which is warring with another gang called 6Hunna or 600. Police also linked Abbott and seven other boys between 17 and 19 years old to a street shooting outside a house party on Thames Drive on June 29 that they also called gang-related.
Lt. Jason Vinson, who worked with the FBI’s gang unit before coming to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, said shootings related to gang activity have become more frequent, escalating quickly from physical fights to gunfire.
Vinson said he’s seen gang members getting more brazen about their allegiance recently. Instead of hiding the gang “colors,” they’re flaunting them and getting T-shirts and hats made that show that they are members.
The number of gangs in Richmond County is not clear. Investigator Ashley Pletcher said 30 but then questioned whether there are more.
“Every little or big neighborhood seems to have one,” she said.
Most of the gangs are comprised primarily of teens but some of the more established ones have older members who are related to the younger ones. Barton Village’s OWTT, or O-DUB, has been around since the 1990s and is one of the largest.
“The parents of the grown people I was investigating would claim (to be members),” Vinson said of the group that is estimated to have more than 100 members.
Two of last year’s homicides were determined to be the result of gang activity. Doniel Hicks, 24, and Truemaine Jones, 27, were both fatally shot at River Glen Apartments within a month of each other. Police said the second death was retaliation for the first.
Devon Harris, who works with “recovering gang addicts” through his organization Full Circle Refuge, said some of the homicides are gang-motivated, or an order handed down from top members, but others are gang-initiated, meaning it’s an individual member’s decision.
One of the misconceptions about local gangs, he said, is that they’re unorganized.
Most of them are organized with a ranking system, meetings and a “book of knowledge” that highlights their beliefs, alphabet and correct responses to particular questions. Some of the gangs are considered smaller chapters of larger national gangs such as the Bloods, Crips and Folk Nation.
Harris, who meets and speaks with gang members across the Augusta and Aiken area, said sometimes the only thing standing in the way of someone leaving a gang is finding steady employment. Selling drugs or stealing items to resell are sometimes easier for a recovering gang member than moving on, he said.
“Seventy percent of crime in any city is gang-related,” Harris estimated. “They have to survive.”
Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said he’s working to create a gang task force that can prevent criminal activity.
“One of my main goals is to prevent young men from entering into crime, winding up in prison or dying in the streets,” Roundtree said in an e-mail. “We understand that youth violence is a major problem in our area and for years we have seen a steady increase in gang-related incidents. … Our goal is not to just stop the cycle but to break it.”