JACKSON -- Quinton Tellis, accused in the burning death of Jessica Chambers, is a member of the Vice Lords street gang, according to his Facebook posts and Panola County authorities.
So is Johnny Robinson Jr., the man accused of shooting Clarksdale police Cpl. Derrick Couch in the face, police said.
Micah Bostic, one of two people charged with capital murder in the death of Corinth convenience store clerk Christine Ledlow, is a Gangster Disciple, with the distinctive devil horns tattooed on his forehead that traditionally are worn only by shot callers.
Those are just three very recent instances, but they are not unique. From the Coast to the Tennessee line, Mississippi law enforcement deals with gang-related and gang-motivated crime on a daily basis, according to the Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators.
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Yet a bill aimed at curtailing and fighting gang crimes, based on a law in Georgia that has been successful for more than a decade, died in committee last week in the state Legislature. Among other things, Senate Bill 2206 would provide enhanced penalties to any verified gang member convicted of a crime, would help law enforcement categorize the crimes in order to keep statistics which could be instrumental in obtaining grant money, and would deny state aid to any verified gang member, including but not limited to food stamps, government housing and college scholarships.
SB 2206 died in Judiciary B committee last week. Committee Chairman Sen. Hob Bryan said he didn't even know the bill existed.
"No one has said a word to me about this bill," he said, adding the drafting and introduction deadlines this year were "unconscionable."
Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Chris McDaniel said he hadn't had a chance to read all of SB 2206, but it seemed like something he'd probably be inclined to support.
"It makes sense as long as there's an adjudication of guilt," he said. "I'd actually support that very much."
Sen. Gray Tollison, who authored the bill, said it's not unusual for some legislation to take a few years to pass.
"We had a short timeline this session and a lot of legislation didn't get considered because we had moved up the timeline," he said. "Given the significant events with the Chambers case and others, I think there may be more impetus for us to consider it and talk to prosecutors and law enforcement about it."
Last year, a similar bill stalled because of racial concerns, officials said. Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason said some people are going to play a race card when they don't like something regardless, but with gangs, it's not all about race.
"They're not just black. Gangs are Asian, gangs are black, gangs are white, gangs are Irish, gangs are Latinos, gangs are Indians, they're everywhere," said Mason, who has studied gangs for more than 25 years and served at one time as JPD's gang task force leader. "The difference is how they carry themselves. If they carry themselves to commit violence, to commit crimes, and they label themselves with tattoos and monikers."
The heaviest gang population is in the corrections system, officials said. Quite a bit of gang business is directed from behind prison bars, but the main reason people join while incarcerated is to have a network for protection and communication.