Ex-Raleigh gang member: ‘It’s like the plague ... We’re just killing each other off.’

Alpha Privette, left, and Timothy Collins, both testified to being former members of Black Mob Gangstas, a Bloods-affiliated gang in Southeast Raleigh.
Alpha Privette, left, and Timothy Collins, both testified to being former members of Black Mob Gangstas, a Bloods-affiliated gang in Southeast Raleigh. Law enforcement photos

Timothy Collins first joined the Bloods at age 19 — a Raleigh teen sent to youth prison for robbery. The prison had a gang affiliation, he said, so any inmate who stayed neutral branded himself an outcast.

Back in Raleigh in 2008, five years later, he found himself in the company of the Black Mob Gangstas around Haywood Street, where he rose to the level of five-star general. The gang coveted him because he was big and handy in a fight, and he took a job handling the “community rent box,” collecting $31 a week from lower-ranking Bloods who raised the cash through robberies, break-ins and drugs.

A decade later, Collins took the witness stand this week in U.S. District Court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, testifying against Demetrice “Respect” Devine and Brandon “B-Easy” Mangum, two fellow Bloods on trial for murder and conspiracy.

How does he feel about gangs now?

“I think it’s like the plague,” Collins told jurors. “I see young dudes now. It’s not beneficial. We’re killing each other off. I’m 35 years old. I’m still locked up.”

Demetrice Devine and Brandon Mangum are two defendants on federal trial in Raleigh for murder and conspiracy through the Black Mob Gangstas, a Bloods-affiliated gang accused of highly organized drug trade and murder. Law enforcement photos

No snitching rule

The federal case against Devine and Mangum continued Thursday after a day’s evidence from ex-Bloods Collins and Alpha “Swag” Privette, who served as a confidential FBI informant for two years, providing information on the Black Mob Gangstas.

On the stand Wednesday, also wearing a prison jumpsuit, Privette confirmed the gang’s strictest rule: “No snitching.”

“Are you a little uncomfortable being here today?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Dena King.

“No,” said Privette.

He described being a ninth-grade dropout, but being drawn to the Bloods around Haywood Street and thriving at crack sales, rising to a high rank and being assigned a number that showed he stood near the top.

“It was like family,” he said, describing the gang’s beginnings. But then everything crumbled when members started getting arrested and ending up in prison. He cooperated with investigators and received a lighter sentence — a point defense lawyers picked at.

“It’s pointless,” Privette said, asked about his attitude toward gangs now. “It ain’t what it was. ... At the end of the day, this is what is gonna happen. Right here.”

“Did you get the family you were longing to get?” King asked.

“No,” said Privette.

Both Privette and Collins described Devine — “Respect” to any gang member — as the unrivaled leader. He drove a “long, old-school car” he named Big Bertha, they testified, and when he sold marijuana on Haywood Street, nobody else could move drugs until his supply was finished.

Over two years, Privette earned more than $12,000 as an informant who recorded gang meetings, an FBI agent testified. At one point, Privette felt threatened enough to leave Raleigh.

“It was a hit went out on me,” he said. “I heard a conversation over the phone where ‘Spect told Boochie I couldn’t be trusted and maybe something had to happen.”

‘Only 18 years old’

As a BMG, Collins said his specialty was robbery, especially other drug dealers who couldn’t report the crime to police. One member from a rival Blood gang also sold marijuana on Haywood Street, which according to gang rules required him to pay dues.

The rival, Rodriguez “Re-Up” Burrell, refused to pay. Collins said he met Burrell at the now-closed Black Tie club on New Bern Avenue and thought the situation had been squared away.

Rodney Burrell.JPG.JPEG
Rodney Burrell

The next morning, he found police at the Haywood Street house, and later learned “Re-Up” had been shot dead. Collins testified he also heard that Mangum, or “B-Easy,” was among a group of BMGs who carried out the killing. “B-Easy” immediately rose from a one-star to a three-star general within the gang ranks, Collins said.

Questioning Collins, the defense pointed out that all his information came second-hand, and that another gang member not only fit the description but had the gun used in the crime.

In his prison jumpsuit, Collins seemed to regret all of it.

“I knew him,” he said of the slain Burrell. “I knew his brother. Me and his brother were friends. I don’t feel that his getting killed was right. He was only 18 years old.”

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.