William "Mikey" Rayford was gunned down two months ago on the streets of St. Louis.
He was 19.
Mikey's murder barely registered as a news event amid ongoing gang violence, but it devastated his family.
"When I lost my son, for the first time in my life I didn't want to be in that neighborhood," Mikey's mom Sharon told me. "Now, I'm afraid. I'm afraid. It's sad that I would be afraid of the kids and the people in that neighborhood, but I am."
Police believe there are 80 to 100 gangs in the St. Louis area. Some gangs are integrated, but that's very unusual. Most gangs fall along racial lines. The overwhelming majority are African-American gangs located in north St. Louis and inner-south St. Louis. There are also Hispanic, Asian-American and White gangs in St. Louis.
Police sources and gang experts tell me a Vietnamese gang is covert and focuses on south St. Louis. Some Hispanic gangs have members from several metro area communities and are spread across two counties. A White Supremacist group, also referred to as a gang, is older, more organized, covert and is connected to south St. Louis city and St. Louis County. However, the sheer number of black gangs and their concentration in small areas make them a special threat to their neighbors.
Unlike the traditional Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles, the Crips and Bloods in St. Louis are loosely organized and aren't always enemies. In fact, during our interview with "Mike," a member of the Anderson Crips, we also interviewed "B," a young woman who is a Blood. She was sitting next to Mike and considers him a friend.
We met them through a mutual contact. Our interview took place on Anderson Street in north St. Louis. Mike and B were direct, boastful, and a little charming, especially B who laughed easily. They didn't seem dangerous, but I saw alot of pain and anger in Mike's eyes. We talked for about an hour with no strings attached. You can see more of their interviews on our website.
Gangs are an ongoing tragedy. Young men and women desperate for love and attention, living in neglected neighborhoods where it's easy to become discouraged and angry.
Mikey Williams fell prey to the gang lifestyle. He wanted the excitement and companionship his friends found in the Geraldine Street Crips.
He thought it was his best shot at becoming somebody.
He was wrong.
Mikey's mom has closed her business on Gerladine, left their home and moved out of the neighborhood vowing that she will not lose her only surviving to gang violence.