Wednesday, April 16, 2008

People v. Bragg (Cal. Ct. App. - April 15, 2008)

Taxes are finished. Money has been paid. The national welfare and defense is secure.

So now we can move on to more important issues. To wit: Precisely what is the lingo of your classic exchange between Bloods and Crips?

Let me give you the context. Which, needless to say, is a sad one, since it's reflected in a judicial opinion. Very few happy stories are articulated therein.

But this one, for some reason, struck me as particularly depressing. Maybe because of the uselessness of the underlying violence. Or maybe because of the rapid change in tenor.

W.V. -- I'll call him Wilson -- walks up to Hites Market in Sacramento and sees Adam Bragg, who's hanging out at the entrance to the store about to buy some beer. Wilson and Adam grew up together, but had not seen each other for some time. So it was a happy meeting. Wilson goes over to Adam and gives him a hug, saying "What's up, dog?" Adam's also happy, and "responds" "What's up?!" At which point Wilson says: "Nothing, just kicking back and being boo."

Now, you may not understand what that means. "Being boo?" What the heck is that? And I hear you on that one. Especially since it's possible that this is actually a transcription error, since whenever I've heard the phrase -- and trust me, that's not very often -- I've seen it reported as "being bool," not "being boo". But it's possible that "boo" is street shorthand for "bool."

Which leaves the question: "Fine, but what the heck is 'bool'?!" Which takes us back to the whole Crips and Bloods thing. You notice, I take it, that Crips beings with "C" and Bloods begins with "B". There you have it. Since the Crips don't like the Bloods, Crips often take words that begin with "B" and replace that first letter with a "C". And vice-versa; Bloods take words that begin with "C" and articulate them with a "B" instead. A "Take that, my evil foe: I refuse even to use words that being with your letter! Suffer the indignities of my wrath!" sort of thing.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a petty nothingness. Maybe something you'd see in a really fractious university English Department or something. But when Bloods and Crips feel insulted, they tend to fire off something other than testy internal memoranda.

Which brings us back to Adam and Wilson. And helps to understand Wilson's comment. He was "kicking back and being boo". Which is instantly understood to mean that he's sitting back and being "coo" - i.e., "cool" -- and to simultaneously indicate to the recipient that the speaker either was or is associated with the Bloods. And in a manner that's deemed to be a serious insult to the Crips.

But no problem, right? So Wilson's a Blood? Big deal. Hites Market is in an area frequented by Bloods anyway, so that should hardly be a shock. And, after all, Wilson and Adam grew up together, and just gave one another a hug. No biggie.

Except here's what Adam then reveals to Wilson, whom (recall) he hasn't seen in a while. Adam responds: "I'm a Crip, cuz." Oops.

Okay, now, normal people, in a traditional setting, might say: "Oh, sorry. I didn't know. I didn't mean to insult you. I'm sure there are some very fine Crips out there, and I'm sure you're one of them. I was just talking as a broad stereotype. Sorry if my language offended you." Whether they meant it or not.

Contrast that hypothetical exchange to how Wilson actually responds to his boyhood friend's revelation. He instead says: "Fuck you, then." And walks into the store.

Needless to say, this isn't going to turn out well.

Wilson first insulted his gave-him-a-hug childhood friend accidentally, in a manner offensive to his gang. And then followed it up with a deliberate, in-your-face affront. Sadly, that's not something that's just going to be let go. Adam -- now extremely angry -- starts screaming at Wilson to "bring your bitch ass outside." And at this point I'll let Justice Hull finish the tale:

"At this point, [Wilson] started out of the store thinking only that he and [Adam] were going to engage in a fist fight. [Wilson] did not think there would be greater violence because [Adam] and [Wilson] had grown up together, [Adam] lived just around the corner from the store and, at some point, [Wilson] had trimmed [Adam’s] mother’s trees.

Some of the women who had come to the market with [Wilson] began pleading with [Wilson] not to fight and began trying to hold him back or block his exit as he went back through the door of the market. At or about the point that [Wilson] and the women passed through the doorway, [Adam], standing outside and facing them, took a gun out of his pocket and began firing it in their direction." As Adam fires ceaselessly into the crowd of people in the store, he shoots Wilson twice and two different bystanders as well.

That's how the story ends. With, of course, Adam subsequently being found guilty of multiple attempted murders and sentenced to 85 years in prison.

All of which, remember, began with a hug and greeting. Of childhood friends.