A 50-year-old man who was fatally shot while sleeping in a car in Seattle’s Rainier Valley on Wednesday was a onetime leader of
the region’s first gang who had been camped out at a memorial to a fallen comrade, according to a gang experts.

The victim, identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office as Derrick L. Hargress, was known by associates as “OG Vamp” and had ties to the Hoover Crips, gang experts said.

According to Gabe Morales, a national gang expert who frequently consults with law enforcement,
Hargress was among a group of individuals, headed by “Freeway” Ricky Ross, who brought the region’s first gangs and crack cocaine from Los Angeles to Seattle in the early 1980s.

“This is a big deal,” said Morales. “This is the guy who brought the Crips and one of the biggest crack-cocaine networks to Seattle. He was considered a pioneer. Shooting him at the memorial is like shooting somebody in church.”

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Hargress served two decades in federal prison after pleading guilty to selling rock cocaine near Garfield High School and using a firearm to further his drug-trafficking business in 1988, according to newspaper accounts.

He wrote an open letter to fellow “Crips” that ran in the Los Angeles Times after he was encouraged to do so by the U.S. District Court judge in Seattle who sentenced him.

“Crip members, wake up and learn from my experience (not the hard way!) that coming to Seattle to sell cocaine isn’t wise at all. It’s not just wrong, but it’s dumb,” he said in the letter.

According to Seattle police, Hargress died after he was shot numerous times while sleeping in a car just before 1 a.m. near South Rainier Avenue and South Austin Street.

Morales said Hargress was camping out at a memorial that had been erected to honor his friend and fellow gang member, 37-year-old Ritchie “OG Ratt” Williams.

Williams was shot in the head in the 4800 block of South Austin Street on April 10 and died the next day at Harborview Medical Center. A 25-year-old man who was with Williams that night was wounded but survived, police said.

Police have made no arrests in connection with either slaying.

A spokeswoman for the Seattle Police Department confirmed that gang and homicide detectives are investigating the shootings but declined to comment further.

Morales and a Seattle police source said law enforcement does not yet know the motive behind the slayings.

Both said there could be a number of factors in play.

Historically, most gang shootings in Seattle have resulted from feuds between Central District and South End gangs, Morales said. But recently, there have been internal battles and “infighting” among factions in both areas, he said.

In addition, there could be generational strife.

“You’ve got the old gangsters coming out of prison and trying to take their spots back, and the youngsters don’t necessarily respect that,” Morales said.

In King County, Williams had multiple drug and weapons convictions.

Morales said there was some information Williams had been trying to go straight, “doing the family thing and going to church.”

But, he said, Williams had once been an enforcer for the Hoover Crips.

“His boys shot a lot of people, and he had a lot of enemies,” said Morales. “His past may have caught up with him.”

Christine Clarridge: 206-850-4717 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.