Gang holiday anticipated by some, feared by others. But is it even real?

Gang holiday anticipated by some, feared by others. But is it even real?

As May days take over the calendar, students in the Beaumont Independent School District are anticipating prom, graduation, summer break and gang violence. While most of the coming activities are touted as memories to be cherished for a lifetime, teens in Southeast Texas who aren’t affiliated with gang activity have come to fear “5/9 Hoova Day,” celebrated every May 9 in the metropolitan area.

Thought by some to be an urban legend, a group of teens from a Beaumont high school spoke with The Examiner about what they called a “thug holiday” taking place every year in schools and parks throughout the city. Not wanting to be targeted by their gangster peers, the students asked to remain anonymous for this article.

“I dread going to class (May 9). But it’s not just school; it’s the whole city going crazy,” an 18-year-old senior confided. “I’ve never been hurt, but I have friends who’ve been jumped. … I’d just rather not deal with it.”

According to the student, and echoed in sentiment by classmates, 5/9 Hoova Day is marked by gang activity attributed to a local group affiliate of the national Crips. Fights, mostly taking place between gang sects, are known to break out at campuses and city parks May 9, sometimes with innocent bystanders brought into the melee. But not everyone sees 5/9 as a bad holiday.

“It’s a day of celebration, to hang out with our crew,” said 5/9 Hoova member Lil’ Cuzz, who, at a ripe age of 25 said the fighting is “kids’ stuff.”

“To (older members), it ain’t about colors no more,” he said. “If I need something from (a rival gang member), I don’t have (a problem) going to them for it. As long as they don’t cross me, we’re good. It’s the kids, though, that get crazy with it.”

Videos of fights taking place at Beaumont parks and a few school campuses are all over the Internet, many tagged 5/9 Hoova, with many of those allegedly posted for the May 9 “holiday.”

One video depicting a brawl at Beaumont’s Magnolia Park points out, “Hoova day in Beaumont a citywide holiday!!!!” In it, one teenage boy is brutally beaten by another until he is knocked to the ground in front of dozens of witnesses. The victor then stomps his victim until the camera pans away.

Fact or fiction

Although Central Medical Magnet High School Principal Patricia Lambert said she has yet to see any violence she’d attribute to 5/9 Hoova celebrations, Beaumont Independent School District Police Department Sgt. Danny Moore calls the gang holiday “an annual event.”

“The Hoover Crips have established a 5/9 clique associated with the group, and they try to gang bang with the group,” he said, but added that most teens in BISD are hesitant to claim affiliation with the outlaw group, at least not during school hours, to the best of his knowledge. “They really don’t do anything on campus. I can’t recall there being any problems since I’ve been here. But with this group of Crips, it’s like their holiday.”

Moore said the BISD PD is extra vigilant on May 9 patrols “just in case,” which may help control the threat of violence on campuses.

“We have a very strong presence during that day, and we make sure they know we’re there,” the officer added. “We like to keep it low-key; it’s a normal day for students, teachers and staff, and we’d like to keep it that way. We have extra people out and extra eyes on the ground on that day, but all in all, it’s just a day like any other.”According to the school district police officer, fights may occur May 9 “just like any other school day, but who’s to say it’s gang related?”

And while Moore said he wouldn’t make light of any kind of gang activity, 5/9 Hoova Day is more bark than bite.

“The best thing all of us can do is try to ignore it,” Moore said. “We are there in case there is a problem, but building it up gives it a little more credibility. If it gets hyped up, it definitely gets more attention.”

The Beaumont Police Department is also putting out extra eyes on the city for May 9. Sgt. Bryan Baker said his special operations unit of the police department is aware of the pending Crip holiday, although with teen violence on the rise, it is impossible to know if some incidents are gang-related or not.

“5/9 Hoova does have a local influence here,” Baker said, adding that the clique is one of the main gangs in the city. “We are aware of it, and there will be fights at school, but what transpires is mostly teen fights and some tagging. …

“It comes up every year, but we don’t see the California gang activity that they show on TV. We do get a lot of gatherings at the park that lead to fights and such, but we answer calls like that several times a week where guns are brought out — some of it is not even related to gangs, just criminals being criminals.”

Baker also said, “5/9s mostly run the North End, but you do come across some of them in the South End as well. Older guys are hesitant to claim gangs now because they can get enhanced penalties for committing crimes – being part of organized crime has a lot stiffer punishment. Kids, though, are always going to claim they know or have affiliation to certain gangs, and that perpetuates the fear where something happens.”

In his experience, Baker said, May 9 is no more hostile than any other day in an age where “kids committing violent acts seems to be happening more and more every day.”Stop the insanity

Beaumont law enforcement and officials from the surrounding area have been combating the Southeast Texas gang problem for years. Still, gang activity is rampant, and even police officers have proved to be fair game for organized criminals.

An appeals court in Jefferson County heard from Beaumont detectives (a married couple) that 5/9 Hoova gang members threatened violence toward the couple and had even driven by the couple’s home, causing the law enforcement officers to fear for their safety. One of the detectives targeted, Aaron Lewellyn, told the court that he heard “cryptic” recordings where members of the gang threatened him and his family. Lewellyn had investigated a 5/9 member for aggravated robbery, where the suspect was alleged to have waited inside a woman’s garage for eight hours for his victim to arrive before beating and robbing the woman and holding her at gunpoint in just her underwear for upward of eight additional hours.

“All gangs are bad,” BPD Officer Baker said, but warned of the overall dangers posed from those who decide to live a life of crime rather than one day of carnage attributed to a May date. Gang members usually, he said, target victims for profit over fun. “I’m not saying they wouldn’t jump on kids just to do it, but we don’t see it that much,” he said.Baker said it is essential for parents to talk to their kids about gangs before someone else does.

“Make your kids aware of it, and if they have any problems, they need to let their teachers, their counselors, the police know,” he said. “Parents need to be involved and know what their kids are doing. It’s up to a parent to be a parent.

“That being said, you can only raise your kids; you can’t raise other people’s kids. There are so many parents out there who don’t know what their kids are into; it’s scary. That’s why the good parents need to be extra cautious.

“Just be aware that it’s out there – our officers will be aware. You can’t prepare if you don’t know it’s going to happen.”

Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com