Friday, August 25, 2023

My Washington Times On Crime Column On Mark Bowden's 'Life Sentence: The Brief And Tragic Career Of Baltimore's Deadliest Gang Leader

 The Washington Times ran my On Crime column on Mark Bowden’s Life Sentence. 

Mark Bowden (seen in the bottom photo) is perhaps best known for books about the military, such as “Black Hawk Down,” but he has also written several books about crime. His latest is “Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader.” I contacted him to ask what drew him to create this well-written and interesting book.


“I am from Baltimore, and the story of ‘Life Sentence’ takes place about 10 miles from my childhood home of Timonium, Maryland,” Mr. Bowden replied. “Though close geographically, the communities could not have been more different, given the long history of racial separation in that city. So, I have always been curious about neighborhoods like Sandtown, where this story takes place. These are places with few of the advantages I enjoyed growing up.


“There and in communities like it all over America, there is an ongoing epidemic of murder, mostly young Black men killing other young Black men. Like most, I find this both alarming and bewildering. ‘Life Sentence’ examines one neighborhood gang of killers in West Baltimore that called itself ‘TTG,’ for ‘Trained to Go’ — ‘go’ being a euphemism for murder — who have been locked up either for life or long prison terms.


“It tells the story both of the remarkable police effort to document the gang’s crimes and also the story of its members, most of them teenagers. It explains how and why the epidemic persists.”


What kind of research did you do for the book?


“I plumbed the voluminous files of the successful prosecution of ten TTG members, rich with audio and video surveillance. I received full cooperation from the local and federal law officers involved. I interviewed extensively in the Sandtown community, with family members of the convicted killers their victims.

“I read extensively about the history of Baltimore and the community and explored the academic research into modern gang violence. I also interviewed some of the Baltimore scholars and city officials — present and former — who have struggled with the problem. I was also able to draw upon my own life growing up nearby and my early work as a reporter in the city.”


How would you describe Montana Barronette, whom you describe as Baltimore’s deadliest gang leader?


“He was described by Baltimore’s police commissioner as “The Number One Trigger-puller” in the city. Barronette is smart, disciplined, ambitious, polite, amoral, ruthless, and at heart hopeless. Convinced, I think, that he would end up either dead or imprisoned at a young age, he was fearless and easily dominated his neighborhood crew. He appears to have enjoyed his notoriety as much or more than any money he made.


“The gang members are normal teenagers raised in an aberrant environment. They are all drawn to the money, women, and excitement of drug dealing and the violence of their world, and, like many teens, were either convinced that they would never be victims themselves, or, like Barronette, accepted that their lives or freedom would be short, and were determined to live it up while they could.”


You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

BOOK REVIEW: 'Life Sentence' - Washington Times

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