It's not every day that the Sand Creek division of the Colorado Springs Police Department has a busload of riot police at its beck and call. But such was the case on May 17, when the state Democratic convention converged with a stabbing at the site of a Colorado Springs flea market, where a custom car show and hip-hop concert were both scheduled to take place. When it comes to "sheer timing, this was as good as it gets," says Rob Kelley, a CSPD Gang Intervention Network sergeant at the Sand Creek substation. "We had a crowd-control team that was already suited up and on their way back from the World Arena. So they happened to be on the bus when this call started. And when it got out of control, they just diverted the bus and sent it over here."
The timing of the stabbing, however, was hardly good for Springs hip-hop: It was around this time last year, after all, that police started linking that community to some violent incidents. And now, police and media responses to the flea-market stabbing have resurrected the cloud of troubles that attracted media attention even a New York Times story last summer.
A crowd gone "haywire'
Radio station 96.1 The Beat had brought in hip-hop artists C-Side and Rob G to perform in tandem with both the car show and the Saturday flea market at 5225 E. Platte Ave.
According to the police incident report, the stabbing took place sometime before 1:45 p.m., while the concert itself wasn't scheduled to begin until 5 p.m., by which time the police had already dispersed the crowd. That, however, didn't stop KKTV Channel 11 from reporting that "in the middle of the live show, the crowd went haywire."
"A lot of the media reports are inaccurate," says Clear Channel's Southern Colorado marketing manager Bob Richards, who oversees The Beat and four other Colorado Springs stations. Richards says the stabbing actually occurred in the parking lot and that "it's a stretch" to say that "this person was there because of the concert and not the car show or the flea market."
Richards says C-Side wasn't scheduled to go on until 5:30 p.m., and the warm-up events that did take place onstage included a local rock band, "a white kid from Denver" named HB and a fashion show.
The stabbing victim was 20-year-old Levi Littlebear Regalado, who was taken to Memorial Hospital in critical but stable condition. Regalado has been released from the hospital and, according to Sgt. Bob Konz, is improving.
While a six-sentence Gazette report proved more accurate than the KTTV story, it still prompted dozens of reader comments, most of them angry condemnations of hip-hop.
It was a year ago this week, following a Memorial Day hip-hop concert, that Anthony Michael Grimaldo was shot and killed in a liquor store parking lot near Memorial Park. The shooting, combined with fights at the since-closed downtown club Eden (now the site of 13 Pure), prompted police to issue a warning to parents about clubs playing "music commonly called "Gangsta Rap." This style of music has the tendency to attract gang members which often results in criminal activity requiring a police response."
As the purveyors of Southern hip-hop confections like "MySpace Freak" and "Boyfriend/Girlfriend" (featuring Keyshia Cole), C-Side are a far cry from anyone's definition of gangsta rap. The Atlanta-based trio, along with Houston's somewhat more gangsta-influenced Rob G, did make appearances the same evening at SoDo Night Club with no problems.
Richards says it was the facility that decided to pull the plug on the afternoon show.
"It wasn't really our event to cancel," he says. "There were three events going on that day ours was just the concert portion of it, and we were told that it was gonna be canceled."
The police department's Kelley says it's not the shows, but the crowds they draw, that precipitate the problem.
"They appeal to a large variety of people, and you get those people in close proximity and they have beefs with each other, and that's where the problem comes from," Kelley says. "It's got nothing to do with the groups or the music itself; it's just the people that it appeals to. It gets them all in the same area, and then problems erupt."
But Richards, who has programmed and promoted a variety of musical genres, insists that it's unfair to "single out hip-hop" when elements of country and rock audiences "act inappropriately when they get in a big crowd situation."
In the case of the flea-market event, says Kelley, "they started selling alcohol early in the day you know, they've got a full-time liquor license and two rival groups decided they didn't like each other. Several small fights broke out, and it just escalated to the point where the guy was stabbed."
Flea-market owner Randy Cloud did not return calls from the Independent.
As one of the officers selected to participate in the city's Gang Intervention Network, Kelley says it would be premature to attribute gang affiliations to the "rival groups" engaged in the fighting.
"Our gang unit is part-time, and until we get somebody classified as a gang member, we can't designate something as a gang-related incident," says Kelley of the investigation, which at press time had yet to identify any suspects.
"However," he adds, "quite a few of the people that were involved were known to us. There are a whole lot of peripheral gang members in the city, you know."