Eighteen-year-old Adrian Cobb had plans to attend Tennessee State University on a scholarship this fall. But the athletic Booker T. Washington grad was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a gang-related shooting broke out at Club 296, a nondescript recording studio on Monroe Avenue, killing her at the scene.
Twenty-two-year-old Rodricuas Tucker and 16-year-old Kordarius Childs were arrested for the shooting, which began after a fight inside the club escalated. Police believe Cobb wasn't the intended target, and their investigation revealed that a new gang called Grind Hard may have been responsible for the violence.
Jimmy Chambers, a gang expert and criminal investigator with the District Attorney's Office, said the shooting was the first he'd heard of the gang. He believes the Grind Hard gang to be an offshoot of the larger Bloods gang.
"These spinoff gangs break away to start their own little thing," Chambers said. "Somebody gets the brilliant idea that they can make their own money and don't have to be under a larger gang's rules. They can make up their own rules."
Chambers said the office has very little information on the Grind Hards. The group's MySpace page features photos of young male (and some female) African-American teens sporting shiny "grills" and airbrushed T-shirts that read "Grind Hard Squad."
Spinoffs like the Grind Hards tend to be small, with an average of 20 to 50 members, according to Chambers. Most are made up of school-age kids and tend to be more reckless since they're often trying to prove themselves.
"When I get word that there's a new gang, I've got to hit the streets. You can't just go on the computer and find out about them," Chambers said. "I'm in the streets and the schools all the time."
Chambers learns information about gangs, such as signs and secret codes, from notes confiscated from students at school. He said students as young as kindergartners join gangs.
"Most of the leaders of these gangs are special-ed kids. You can't tell by looking at them, but you know by going to the classes," Chambers said. "The crazy part is those kids have honor-roll kids following them."
There are over 10,000 gang members in Memphis, Chambers said. But he doesn't know how many gangs Memphis has since spinoff gangs form and fall apart often.
"The gang problem fluctuates," Chambers said. "It all depends on what we do about it. If law enforcement tries to lay the smack down on them, they'll lay down. But if we slack off, they'll raise their heads again."