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Gang Recruitment at South County

Police call assault in high school boys' room to be gang initiation ritual.

The two students who assaulted a classmate in a boys' bathroom at South County High School in March were initiating him into a gang called the Black Spades Organization, according to a release from Fairfax County Police issued Wednesday, May 30.

According to an affidavit for a search warrant filed May 29, the incident occurred on March 21, but school resource officers were not "made aware" of its significance until April 20. They contacted the county’s Gang Investigations Unit, and a month-long investigation ensued. Four Lorton-area juveniles were arrested in connection with the incident and charged with gang participation and recruitment. One, a 17-year-old, was charged with destruction of property. The other three students, two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old were charged with hazing.

According to interviews with the arrested students, as cited in the affidavit, the Black Spade Organization, or "Spades," also claims members in Arlington, Alexandria and Kingstowne, as well as in Illinois and Tennessee. It is aligned with the nationally recognized Folk Nation gang. As Folk Nation allies, Spades are friendly with members of the Crips gang and fight with gangs allied with Bloods, including the 33 Mobs, which also has members at South County High School.

While the two students carried out the assault, a third student kept time for 12 seconds, during which the assailants were allowed to freely strike the initiate anywhere but his head, according to the affidavit. As "Baby Spades," all three gang members were among the gang's lowest ranks. In order to ascend the hierarchy, they would be required to commit crimes including vandalism, destruction of property larceny, robbery, assault and battery, malicious wounding and car theft.

FAIRFAX COUNTY Public Schools spokesman Paul Regnier assured that the school took "appropriate disciplinary action" with the students involved, and he declined to elaborate further. Schools are "constantly on the lookout" for gang activity and stay in contact with the police in order to stay up-to-date, said Regnier. "This stuff is changing all the time," he said, with regard to the clothing, hand signals and other signifiers of gang affiliation.

Following the incident, he said, the schools are planning another presentation to inform the community of signs of gang activity. Other such presentations have been given, said Regnier, adding, "attendance hasn’t always been what they want it to be." He also noted that county middle schools have added more after-school activities to their schedules in recent years because middle school is "the time when a lot of kids are going to be out in the community and might be recruited into gangs."

He also pointed out that most gang activity takes place outside of the schools. "The rest of the community and parents also need to stay alert, and if they see anything that looks like gang activity, report it," said Regnier.

"I was very surprised to hear we had that kind of activity at South County," said Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) of the incident. "I’m sure that the principal and parents and students are surprised that you had that type of activity there, because we have not had a similar issue that has been prevalent in any of our high schools here in Mount Vernon."

The government, the police and the community, he said, will need to remain "ever vigilant and make sure we do all that we can to prevent that from happening."