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New gang task force looks to minimize 'domestic terrorism'

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A special task force between the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Columbia Police Department looks to take on street gangs. A special task force between the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Columbia Police Department looks to take on street gangs.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

It was a mob fight in a public street in broad daylight that investigators say was orchestrated by gang members on Plain Street. But little did those suspects know that surveillance cameras were watching.

Three teens, 18-year-old Saquan Praylow, 17-year-old Rodney Friday, and 18-year-old Rolmono Cooke have all been charged with assault and battery by mob.

The arrests are a result of a new task force between the Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

That fight, however, has Keishan Boulware worried about his parents, who have called Plain Street home for many years.

"I never really worry about them," Boulware said, "because they've been here for over 30-something years. I do see that things have started to dwindle."

Boulware is talking about a fight that happened just weeks ago just a couple houses down at the intersection of Plain and Truman Streets.

"Children need to be playing sports during the summer like I was when I was a child," Boulware said. "Sports and summer camp."

Richland County said the 15 to 20 young people involved in the fight were members of rival gangs and met at a nearby intersection to cap off a year-long grudge.

"A melee happened in the roadway," Lt. Vince Goggins said, "and as a result, a young man was hit in the head with an object that we believe to be a brick and he went to the hospital, and he suffered a fractured skull"

Goggins is part of the gang task force. He said their work isn't done as they're still looking to arrest more and put a stop to the gangs.

"In my opinion, it's domestic terrorism," Goggins said. "They breed fear into the community. You know, they tear down the real estate market. They're basically tearing down their community."

Goggins said this represents a new trend with gangs. Juveniles, in particular, are joining "hybrid gangs" that sometimes begin as entertainment groups.

"They're trying to get away from the national gangs," Goggins explained, "and formalize under the hybrid gangs not knowing that they can be considered a gang just based off the fact of the definition of a street gang."

Goggins said the new task force, now just about a month old, will keep up the hard work.

"With this unit," he said, "it's about making a difference in the community."

It's a difference that Boulware is happy to see.

"It makes it be safer for my family and for us and also for my parents," she said. "So, I'm very happy about that."

Goggins said most of the alleged gang members in the fight are not previous offenders. He hopes they can be turned around before it's too late. Goggins added a street fight today can be a drive-by shooting tomorrow and the biggest cure for this is heavy parental involvement.

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