When two Mount Hope gang members were shot in January, one of the first things San Diego Police gang Lt. Keith Lucas did was text Cornelius Bowser.
Bowser’s a 51-year-old former West Coast Crip-turned-community activist. From Bowser, the word of the shooting spread through “the streets” – his version of a phone tree that connects OGs, or reformed “original gangsters,” across rival territories. Through their contacts, he might be able to get a name, an address or a phone number that could get him into the victim’s hospital room.
Bowser leads the volunteer-based Community Assistance Support Team, or CAST. In April, the group persuaded the police to share real-time information on gang shootings and stabbings so they could deploy quickly into streets, alleyways and hospital rooms to talk gang members down from retaliating.
“The only way I was finding out about a shooting was reading the paper or hearing something through the news,” said Bowser, who found religion in 1984 and now runs the Charity Apostolic Church in Santee. “You try to work the streets, try to figure out what’s going on, but you’ve lost a lot of time.”
Bowser said diffusing the situation early on is the best way to prevent gang violence.
“When you talk about an individual that gets shot and he’s in the hospital, of course he can be thinking about getting vengeance, but’s he’s also thinking about how he could have lost his life. He’s also thinking about some of the changes that he maybe needs to make in his life,” Bowser said. “So if we’re able to get in there and make a human connection with them and win their trust, we can actually change their mind about what they were thinking about doing.”
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@Jim Jones Really? That is what you are worried about? I welcome all community members and police to work together to solve this problem. They are doing something good.