I say “continues” because according to this report in the Salt Lake Tribune, law enforcement in Utah has been dealing with gangs that include refugees since the ’70’s. First it was Asians such as Vietnamese and Cambodians, later Bosnians (remember the 2007 mall killings by a Bosnian refugee) and now it’s Iraqis and Somalis. I didn’t know that this was a big issue in Salt Lake City, although we have previously chronicled gang violence involving Somalis in Minneapolis (here) and Seattle (here).
We follow the news fairly closely and so I was especially shocked to see that this report opens with a description of the shooting death of an Iraqi refugee who had opened fire in a public place just this past January. Did this make the national news?
After 19-year-old Hussein Al-Rekabi opened fire into a crowd at a downtown nightclub in January, a mob of his angry relatives screamed death threats at officers who responded.
A Salt Lake City police officer shot and killed Al-Rekabi, who had ignored a command to stop and injured two bystanders near Club Bliss at 404 S. West Temple around 1:15 a.m. on Jan. 24.
Al-Rekabi’s family includes documented members of an Iraqi gang, Detective Nate Clark of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Metro Gang Unit said Thursday.
At the shooting, “It was ‘You guys are dead.’ But also, ‘Get out of our country and leave our oil alone,'” Clark said Thursday at the Utah Gang Conference, during a session about gangs that formed after refugee groups arrived in Utah.
Refugees are joining existing gangs or forming their own.
Metro Gang Unit investigators say they’re now seeing newer refugees, such as young men from Somali and Sudan, latching onto American gang culture. From listening to hip hop to mimicking gang dress, some are forming their own gangs and others are assimilating into existing gangs, Clark said.
The Center for Immigration Studies released a report last fall on the extent of immigrant gang violence in the US, here.
The Salt Lake Tribune has written extensively on refugee issues in Utah, use our search function for ‘Salt Lake City’ to learn more about the problems the city faces.