* Co-founded the violent Crips gang in 1971
* Murdered four innocent people in a series of armed robberies in 1979
* Icon of the left
* Was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2001
* Was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison in 2005
Born on December 29, 1953 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Stanley “Tookie” Williams in 1971 co-founded the violent street gang known as the Crips, which had its roots in South Central Los Angeles. In 1979 Williams and three accomplices went on a murder-and-robbery spree that netted approximately $250 and left four people dead.
One victim — Albert Owens, a 7-11 market clerk in Whittier, California — was shot twice in the back. According to one of the accomplices, Williams acknowledged having killed Owens for two reasons: because he did not want any witnesses to identify him as the gunman, and “because he [Owens] was white and [Williams] was killing all white people.”
Williams then proceeded to rob the Brookhaven Motel in Los Angeles, and in the process he murdered the three proprietors — an elderly Taiwanese couple and their 43-year-old daughter (to whom he referred as “Buddhaheads”). He killed all his victims with a 12-gauge shotgun, which he held inches from their bodies before pulling the trigger.
During his 1981 trial, Williams devised a plot to have two accomplices intercept the van that transported him and a fellow defendant each day from prison to the courthouse. The accomplices would be given the assignment of killing the two deputies on board, while Williams would kill the other prisoner who might otherwise act as a witness against him. The survivors would then dynamite the van, so authorities would not immediately know who had escaped. This plot never materialized, however, and Williams was eventually convicted of all four murders with special circumstances (armed robbery in both cases) and was sentenced to death.
While on death row, Williams went on to plan subsequent escapes, assault prison guards, and order gangland murders from behind bars. His repeated violence and intransigence earned him six years in solitary confinement.
After 1993, however, Williams changed course and embarked on a massive public-relations campaign to portray himself as a “redeemed” former gang member, writing children’s books against the gang mentality. In all, he authored or co-authored eleven books. His purported chrysalis convinced many of the Hollywood supporters of another cold-blooded murderer, cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, to beg clemency for Williams as well. Among those to request a commutation of his sentence were Mike Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Bianca Jagger, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Political and activist figures like Mario Cuomo, Louis Farrakhan, Tom Hayden, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Desmond Tutu did the same. The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP also came to the defense of Williams, who in 2001 was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
At a “Save the Peacemaker” rally in late November 2005, Nation of Islam Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad (standing in for Louis Farrakhan) said that the real criminal in the Tookie Williams case was not Williams, but rather the allegedly racist, genocidal United States of America. “This government needs clemency from God itself,” said Muhammad. “Our President needs clemency; a President who has murdered tens of thousands on foreign soil. He needs to show that he is a redeemed man, and even in that act, President Bush can call for the clemency of Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams.”
According to prison officials, however, Williams not only had failed to renounce his past involvement with the Crips, but he continued to consort with them in prison and had actually been directing the gang’s activities from his jail cell from 1994 through 2005. Nor had he ever admitted guilt or expressed remorse for the 1979 murders.
Moreover, Williams had never told the Los Angeles Police Department anything he knew about the personnel, practices, or operational structure of the gang he co-founded. In his writings, he boasted that he “underwent many years of soul-searching and re-education, without ‘debriefing’ [i.e., ‘snitching’],” which he said would “rip my dignity out of my chest.”
On December 13, 2005, after having exhausted all forms of appeal, Williams was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison in California. According to Newsweek magazine, on the day of his execution thousands of protesters congregated outside the prison to make one final appeal for clemency on his behalf, unsuccessfully.
Further Reading: “Let Tookie Williams Die” (by Ben Johnson, FrontPage Magazine, 12-1-2005).