Posted on August 1, 2011

Gangs in Small-Town Central Washington

Claudia Rowe, Seattle Times, July 31, 2011

Take a casual stroll through this Central Washington farm town and you’d never guess what’s going on. The streets are quiet. Men take leisurely afternoons to get their beards trimmed at the barbershop downtown. Motorists driving through, past fields of alfalfa and spearmint, are welcomed with a huge sign proclaiming Quincy the embodiment of “Opportunities Unlimited.”

Yet this homespun place of 6,700 souls is also where a 25-year-old man was gunned down in broad daylight on a busy thoroughfare last spring, where cops had found a crowd of teenagers hiding a sawed-off shotgun in a couch several months earlier, and where the chief of police says a teenage girl was recently gang raped.

Nearby in Moses Lake last summer, U.S. marshals rounded up 50 suspected gang members–many of them with alleged ties to the Mexican Mafia.

Here is small-town Americana, a land of wide-open spaces, church socials and, increasingly, gang warfare.

Grant County, with a population hovering around 89,000, hardly dominates the national radar as a center for such activity. Yet the area logged nearly 100 robberies and shootings last year, all of them gang-related–including a 10-year-old boy shot in the head when his parents’ trailer was riddled with bullets, and a 13-year-old girl injured in a drive-by while she sat in her living room.

“People think this is a big, safe community, but it’s all under the surface,” says Creeper, a 20-year-old high-school dropout from Moses Lake, and sometime member of the Marijuanos 13 set. “Believe it–we’ve got PL, LVL, Florencia, Marijuanos, Nortenos. You got everything out here in Moses Lake you can think of.”


{snip} At the annual Moses Lake Spring Festival, held Memorial Day weekend, Deputy Joe Harris was stunned at the number of young people brazenly displaying their gang colors.

“For a city that doesn’t have a gang problem, there sure were a lot of gang members walking around–just these packs of eight or 10 of them,” he says. “It was eye-opening.”


“You see these kids,” says Grinch, a Marijuanos O.G. [Original Gangster] in his 30s, gesturing at a crowd that had gathered in Quincy last winter to watch Creeper get his sixth tattoo. “They see us rap, drink. They all want in. All I have to do is ask, and they’ll kill. It’s that easy. Because this is not a choice for us. This is life.”