'311 Boyz' Shock Las Vegas

videotape of 311 boyz gang beating in las vegas
Sixteen-year-old Christopher Morgan lived in a gated community with tennis courts and a golf course. He went to a good school in a safe part of town. His mother made Sunday dinner every week.

But police said also he lived another life: as one of the 311 Boyz, a youth gang that beat several teens, leaving one needing titanium plates in his face, another with a broken jaw and a community wondering why.

Unlike most gangs, police say the 311 Boyz came from middle- to upper-class homes. Most were white. Many were students at Centennial High School, a campus tucked away in an affluent section of northwest Las Vegas.

"They had every single opportunity," said Morgan's mother, Seaneen DeFoor, a cocktail waitress at a downtown hotel-casino. "It offends me to the core. That's not how he was raised."

Police say the gang's symbol was the iron cross, a military honor and one of the most recognizable images of Nazi Germany. DeFoor said she didn't even know her son had a tattoo, let alone an iron cross on his back.

Videos recorded by the teens show them laughing, joking, flashing their iron cross tattoos and yelling "311 Boyz" before fighting other teens. Police are investigating how the gang formed, but have identified about 40 members and associates and at least nine violent incidents.

"It sickened me," Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent said after watching the videos. "I was concerned for my children. How do you send them to school after seeing that?"

But attorneys and friends of some of the suspects dispute the police's portrait. Gabriel Grasso, a lawyer who represents 16-year-old Brandon Gallion, said the group was a party crew.

"He's not a street kid. He's never been in trouble," Grasso said. He described Gallion as a regular high school kid from a working-class family, and said racist allegations are ridiculous.

Police believe the gang may have taken its name from the three Ks in Ku Klux Klan; K also is the 11th letter of the alphabet. But Grasso said the group took its name from a rock band and the iron cross is a popular insignia among skateboarders and motocross riders.

"These kids wouldn't know the first thing about the Klan," Grasso said.

The group first made headlines after a hot July night when three teens in a pickup sped wildly through an upscale neighborhood in a mad dash to escape a group of 311 Boyz and get to a hospital. One of them lay bleeding, howling in pain from a broken arm and a shattered face after a softball-sized rock crashed through the truck's windshield.

"They had good parents who provided them with all of the benefits of an upper-class lifestyle," said Deputy District Attorney Jonathan VanBoskerck. "These kids had all the blessings our society has to offer and this is how they thank the community."

Nine teens were indicted in the rock attack. They face multiple charges, including attempted murder and battery with the use of a deadly weapon. Each faces a maximum of 60 years in prison if convicted.

Some of the teens' lawyers said it wasn't a gang attack but simply a party that got out of hand. The teens who threw rocks were just angry because one of their friends had been struck by the pickup, the lawyers said.

At Centennial High School, some students expressed frustration that their classmates were charged.

"I don't think these boys should be wasting away in prison for, like, the next 45 years," said Teri Dahl, 16, who has socialized with the 311 Boyz. "We're not spoiled kids, we're just normal kids who got caught up in something stupid."

Irving Spergel, University of Chicago sociology professor and author of "The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach," said it's rare to have gangs in more affluent areas, although the 311 Boyz are not the first.

"They're just a bunch of kooky kids that got out of control," he said. "These kids have to achieve something they're apparently not achieving in other areas of their existence."

Morgan had been in trouble before, caught driving a stolen car and under the influence of drugs, but DeFoor, 38, thought her son was on track when he took up with a new group of kids.

Then a police officer came to her door, telling her Morgan was a member of the 311 Boyz. "That he could be part of a racial gang, that floored me," said DeFoor.

Morgan pleaded guilty this month to beating a teen with brass knuckles, and was sentenced to a youth correctional facility until early next year. DeFoor said she and her ex-husband tried counseling and drug treatment programs to help their son.

"Where were the parents? Guess what? I was here the whole time," she said. "He was taught right from wrong. He was taught that at a very early age. But consequences didn't matter to him."