To most Palo Altans, before the night of June 12, when Herbert Kay was fatally beaten on Gilman Street in downtown Palo Alto, gangs were the stuff of documentaries, of movies, of gritty urban sprawl.
But the quiet of Palo Alto's tree-lined streets was shattered by the viciousness of a sinister group mentality that night as six members of an East Palo Alto gang known as the True Blue Crips pummeled Kay, who, without his wallet, was taking an evening stroll.
The six suspects in the murder--three juveniles and three adults--have been formally charged with Kay's murder and with attempted robbery. The charges against all six have also been enhanced with a "gang charge," a violation of an aspect of the penal code which prohibits an ongoing organization of three or more people to conspire to commit serious crimes in association with a gang in order to further their mission as a gang or under the direction of a gang leader.
The original Crips gang from Los Angeles was African-American, according to Detective Charles Zeglin of the Los Angeles Police Department's gang investigative unit. Their signature color is blue--perhaps because this was the school color of the high school attended by some of the original members--and their main industry is drug dealing.
The name "Crips" reputedly has a sinister origin. "If you didn't do what they said, they'd cripple you," Zeglin said.