Nearly three decades have passed since one of our reporters spent time with young gang leaders and took a close look at the alternatives to thug life.
Two events this week pointed us back at that story from June 8, 1986. First, Illinois State Police were in Cahokia trying to save some young men from dying in the streets. Second, coach R.J. Krause passed away.
State police in 1986 were part of an anti-gang unit, trying the curb the gang violence and crime that at that point had already plagued the metro-east for a decade. Two young men were dead and the leader of the Park Avenue Players was shot and in the hospital.
Ricky Lawson was a member of the Park Avenue Players and was beaten by the same guys who shot the gang’s leader. He was gang violence often came from larger gangs trying to intimidate or absorb the smaller gangs.
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He didn’t trust the cops to handle any violence. He also blamed the need for gangs on the lack of opportunity and lack of anything to do.
“Half of us don’t got no jobs. We can’t just sit back and starve or be poor all our lives,” he said.
He said with no job or anything to do, each day becomes about killing time.
“I shoot basketball all day. Or each one of us got a car, and we help each other with our cars,” Lawson said. “Just kill the day. Ain’t got nothing to do.”
The story also discussed the alternatives to gang life, including the R.J. Krause All-Stars Sports Club. Richard J. Krause in 1979 started taking youngsters to sporting events and formed little league teams to give East St. Louis children something to do.
“I was getting tired of seeing kids hanging around on street corners,” Krause said. “Sooner or later, they’re going to decide to try something.”
Krause said gangs were one of East St. Louis’ problems, and he said it was his job to work against bad things happening in his city.
Want to see more photos, the news article from 1986 or past episodes of Throwback Thursday? Visit us at bnd.com