CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A police officer shooting in Fayette County might be linked to the Bloods and Crips street gangs, and Charleston police aren't that surprised. They say gangs are becoming a problem across the state.
"Gangs from other cities have been coming to Charleston for more than 15 years," said Sgt. Tim Palmer, who heads up the Special Enforcement Unit for the Charleston Police Department. "And it's normally drug-related, or people coming to an area to get away from the gangs."
Cpl. C.A. Young of the Oak Hill Police Department was shot and wounded during a traffic stop on March 18. Fayette County authorities said a few days ago they believe the shooting is linked to the gangs.
Palmer remembers talking to officers in Beckley six or seven years ago about gangs in the city, but most of them were hybrid, local gangs fashioned off of a larger national organization.
It's not uncommon to see a hybrid group like the Blood Money Gangsters, named after the infamous Bloods, or the Town of Belle Latin Kings, Palmer said.
Most of those gangs are formed by someone who was influenced by a gang in a larger city and was taken out of the area, often by a parent, to get away from a life of crime, Palmer said.
"But then, they find themselves in a new place and they start getting guys around them and they start talking the talk," he said, "and then you get a gang someplace like Alum Creek."
So seeing gang activity in Oak Hill wasn't that shocking, "especially that close to Beckley," he said. "I'm not surprised to see gangs in any neighborhood.
"If a market for drugs is there, gangs will be there."
Fayette County authorities seemed a little more surprised their towns might be home to notorious gangs.
"We didn't realize this was going on," said Fayette County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Sizemore, who is heading up the investigation into Young's shooting.
Authorities believe the shooting suspect is linked to the Bloods and Crips, and came from the Columbus, Ohio, area.
"We've gotten information from multiple sources who had a detailed knowledge that they wouldn't have if they weren't aware of what was going on," Sizemore said.