4 to Face Charges in Hyphy Melee

Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee, Dec. 22, 2006

Four men face robbery charges stemming from the riotous Sept. 3 hyphy incident in downtown Modesto.

One said Thursday he and his friends were arrested because of their skin color and dreadlocks hairstyles. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

A prosecution spokeswoman said District Attorney Birgit Fladager received bad information from her staff before she told The Bee last month that an investigation produced no adult defendants.

The men actually were charged three days after police confronted a violent street crowd, and the defendants since have appeared at many court hearings.

Darrell Brown Jr., 19, Timothy Arnezz Burch Jr., 19, Eric DaShawn Burch, 20, and Jose Alberto Lopez Jr., 24, each are charged with two felony robbery counts and an enhancement for using beer bottles as weapons. Each faces a maximum seven-year prison sentence if convicted, said Carol Shipley, assistant district attorney.

Witnesses said groups of defiant teens outside a nighttime concert at Club Velocity—a club within the Palladium nightclub on 10th Street—assaulted women, robbed girls and vandalized cars. Police called in reinforcements from eight other agencies, formed a riot line, used dogs and eventually arrested 17 people.

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Members of the hyphy movement insist it is nothing more than a style of song and dance. But police in Oakland, Stockton, Manteca and Modesto say hyphy events often involve violence, vandalism, drugs, heavy sexual overtones and disregard for the law.

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Brown said “the charges are bogus.” He denied robbing anyone and said he didn’t see any attacks.

“We was just downtown, kicking it,” Brown said. “The next thing you know, the police drove by and they just handcuffed us.”

The Bee learned of the hyphy prosecutions after Brown’s mother, Diana Hood, read in Wednesday’s newspaper about a flap in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leadership over a perceived lack of support for black youths after the hyphy incident.

“The DA has no intention of ever letting this go,” Hood said. “They really want to destroy my son and his friends’ lives. I will not sit back and let my son take the blame for this.

“I want the community to know,” Hood continued, “that this hyphy thing is not over, by a long shot.”

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