Last week, King County prosecutors filed murder charges against 20-year-old Andrew J. Patterson for the senseless killing of Justin Ferarri earlier this year in the Central District. Court documents allege that Patterson is a member of the 31 R.A.C.K.S., a group of rappers and hustlers that hang out at the intersection where Ferrari was shot. The R.A.C.K.S., short for "Running After Cash, Killin Suckaz," have posted several videos on YouTube that document their activities, including one that was used by police to identify Patterson.
According to charging documents filed Friday in King County Superior Court, almost immediately after the May 24 shooting SPD gang detectives identified members of 31 R.A.C.K.S. (sometimes spelled R.A.C.K.$., or shortened to 'trey-one' in reference to the neighborhood surrounding 31st Ave and East Cherry Street) as possible suspects.
Specifically, the cops were suspicious about 21-year-old Travonte T. McCoy and 22-year-old Renaldo M. Jones, because they had recently been arrested a few blocks away for illegal firearm possession. The pair are described as "brothers or half brothers," and reportedly live near the intersection where the shooting occurred. Jones matched witness descriptions of the shooter, described a black male in his early 20s with corn rows and diamond stud earrings.
Court documents state that there had been "recent possible gang activity" in front of the King Deli at the corner of East Cherry and MLK, and note that the SPD gang unit had "personal prior contacts" with Jones and McCoy. Researching the R.A.C.K.S., detectives noticed the group often filmed themselves at the same intersection and posted the footage to YouTube.
Witnesses placed Jones and McCoy at the scene of the shooting, part of a group that got into an argument outside the King Deli over a bummed cigarette. When a customer and neighborhood character nicknamed "Crazy John" refused to give them smokes and called a member of their crew a bitch, one R.A.C.K.S. member allegedly pulled a pistol and fired the bullet that struck Ferrari in the head as he was passing by with his parents and young children in a white Volkswagen van.
After a lengthy investigation, police eventually ruled out Jones as the shooter. Eyewitness accounts, cell phone records, bus surveillance footage, and other evidence suggest that Patterson was the triggerman. Patterson, nicknamed AP, has previous convictions for assault, firearms possession and burglary. He is identified as a member of the 31 RACKS, and one of the group's videos reportedly helped confirm his identity.
The YouTube video named in court documents is titled "KG's 19th G-Day Weekend March 2012 (Central District 206) 31 RACKS." Nearly 10 minutes long, the clip is billed as "a dose of real Seattle hood shit," that offers "a inside look at the R.A.C.K.$. lifestyle." Patterson makes several cameos in the clip, wearing a Chicago Bulls cap, red shoes, and the stud earrings described by witnesses at the scene of the Ferrari shooting.
The R.A.C.K.S. lifestyle apparently includes playing pick-up basketball in the park, counting a stack of cash in front the Catfish Corner restaurant, and "poppin' bottles and matchin bluntz" in Powell Barnett Park near Garfield High School. Another day, the crew loiters on the corner of 28th and MLK, and McCoy-better known by his nickname ConMan-complains when a cop car circles their block a couple times, "It's that Seattle police department, this is every day." Naturally, they respond to the police presence by going to a nearby park to smoke a massive blunt.
A YouTube account for 31RACKSmovement has posted more than a dozen videos since May. McCoy and Jones (aka N.O.E.) appear to be the most active members, and the most musically-inclined of the group. The pair have a song called "Cold Duo," with a music video that depicts more scenes from the Central District. Jones urges caution for people passing though his neighborhood, rapping "if you do, then it's on, the cops ain't stopping drive-bys."
Another song featuring Jones and McCoy called "This Shit's Dope," is accompanied by a video that shows one R.A.C.K.S. member buying several packages of baking soda, and later shows what appears to be crack cocaine cooking up on a kitchen stove. The video is prefaced with a disclaimer that the events shown are "entirely fictional."
A source with knowledge of local gangs says the 31 RACKS are "a mix" of various Central District gangs, likely affiliated with the Black Gangster Disciples. Members flash the Gangster Disciples' "pitchfork" hand gesture in the YouTube videos, along with a "Middle East" sign that likely refers to the geographic location of 31st and Cherry within Central District.
The SPD public affairs office did not respond to a message inquiring about the 31 RACKS, and plans to address gang activity in the area where Ferrari was murdered. Cell phone numbers for both Jones and McCoy are listed in court documents, but the numbers are no longer in service.
The 31 RACKS are hardly the first group of Seattle gangsta rappers to boast about living a thug lifestyle in song, only to end up in trouble for committing real life crimes. On the other hand, not all rappers are criminals, and many use their portrayals of life in the hood to make a point about how inequality and segregation breeds crime in certain neighborhoods. Even 31 RACKS, in their own crude way, express some thoughts about the root of the Central District's increasing violence and drug dealing.