After he served his country in the Middle East, Vancito Gumbs returned home to Stone Mountain, Georgia, to become a cop. But according to federal prosecutors, Gumbs would soon lead a double life as a “hitman” for the Gangster Disciples.
Gumbs, a 27-year-old father, was convicted last week of one count of RICO conspiracy involving murder, a charge that could land him decades behind bars. His sentencing is scheduled for this August—one month after he’s expected to appear in state court on unrelated charges of breaking a suspect’s jaw.
Four other alleged members of the Gangster Disciples (GD), a highly structured national street gang formed in Chicago in the 1970s, were found guilty of a variety of crimes including racketeering, carjacking and attempted robbery.
“The defendants in this case were each responsible for horrific violent crimes,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a statement Monday announcing the convictions. “It should give the community comfort to know that justice has been done and that each defendant faces a long prison sentence in a federal facility.
“Gangs like this cannot hide behind a veil of performing community service while at the same time encouraging crimes such as murder and robbery.”
According to prosecutors, Gumbs was a DeKalb County police officer while he moonlighted as an executioner for the gang. Gumbs allegedly tipped off gang members to law enforcement intel—including warning Kevin Clayton, supposedly the gang’s “Chief Enforcer” for the state of Georgia, of a forthcoming police raid.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Gumbs resigned in October 2015 while facing an internal probe stemming from a citizen complaint that he used illegal drugs. Months later, when Gumbs was indicted for racketeering, DeKalb County’s police chief said, “I’m saddened to learn one of our former officers was involved in this... There are bad apples in every organization. This was a bad apple.”
According to the indictment, in August 2015, Gumbs admitted that he executed people as a “hitman” for the Gangster Disciples. In fall of that year, the police officer traveled with Clayton to “take care of GD business,” prosecutors say.
In September 2015, Clayton allegedly informed Gumbs that co-defendant Donald Glass was his “right hand guy” and that the Hate Committee was a group within the GD structure.
On Oct. 1, 2015, Clayton asked Gumbs to find out what cops were investigating on Flat Shoals Road in DeKalb County, the indictment alleges. Gumbs allegedly reported back to Clayton that police were responding to a shooting.
Gumbs called Clayton two days later and warned him to steer clear of a sports bar he frequented, because law enforcement was conducting a raid, prosecutors say. The same day, Clayton asked Gumbs to bring him a gun, according to the charging document. (It’s unclear from court papers whether Gumbs ever did provide a weapon.)
Over the last few weeks, the federal jury in Atlanta heard testimony about the gang’s pattern of violent deeds, including the murder of 12 people, attempted murder, bank and wire fraud, robbery, drug trafficking and extortion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
One man was gunned down in front of his 4-year-old child as he and his family walked home from a convenience store, while another victim was shot more than a dozen times because he refused to participate in a “community clean-up,” prosecutors claim.
“The Gangster Disciples maintain a hierarchical structure on the belief that the enterprise will be ready to step in and run the United States should its government fail,” the indictment stated, adding that the group’s national leader, “Chairman” Larry Hoover, continues to communicate with gang leadership from prison.
Each state has a “Chief Enforcer” who imposes the gang’s codes and authorizes punishments for breaking the rules. Such punishments could include “Kill on Sight” orders for violating gang rules, the indictment states.
Still, Gumbs’ defense lawyer argued he wasn’t involved in GD operations, and that he was mostly implicated because of text messages to a girl he was trying to impress.
In one April 2017 court filing, Gumbs’ attorney Roger C. Wilson noted Gumbs’ name was mentioned in only five of the indictment’s more than 200 paragraphs.
“The references to him are minimal not only in number but also in content and significance. They are cursory and very imprecise. It appears that most of them are based on hearsay statements offered to government agents by his disgruntled, ex-girlfriend,” Wilson wrote in a motion for reconsideration of Gumbs’ pretrial detention.
Gumbs’ admissions to being a “hitman” and traveling with Clayton to “take care of GD business” came in the form of “foolish, youthful” texts to a woman he was dating, Wilson said. Just before the indictment, that woman became his “extremely bitter ex-girlfriend.”
“It appears, and it is expected that testimony will show, that almost the entirety of these allegations in the Indictment regarding Mr. Gumbs came from his ex-girlfriend ... who apparently approached the FBI to try to provide damning information to them about Mr. Gumbs,” Wilson claimed in a footnote of his motion.
In response, the government argued “the evidence against Gumbs is strong” and that Gumbs hasn’t provided any new facts showing otherwise. “His membership and association with the Gangster Disciples and his conduct in connection with that association is confirmed to a large extent by this on words, including text messages and wire intercepts,” wrote assistant U.S. Attorney Kim S. Dammers.
In one text message, Gumbs asked his then-girlfriend “if she thinks that God would forgive him for the killings,” Dammers said.
Yet Wilson told The Daily Beast that Gumbs is far from a “hitman,” let alone a Gangster Disciple, and that the ex-cop plans to appeal the verdict.
“I think the verdict is contrary to the facts in this case,” Wilson said on Monday, adding that the law, as charged in the case, was overly broad. The jury “merely had to find that a defendant was affiliated in some way” with the criminal organization, rather than finding Gumbs committed any crime himself or attempted to commit any crime, Wilson said.
“There was no allegation that he committed any substantive crime or attempted to, or solicited anyone,” Wilson said. “Because he was affiliated with someone the government argued was in the Gangster Disciples, it’s essentially guilt by association.”
Wilson said authorities didn’t present any evidence that linked Gumbs to any of his co-defendants, aside from the Gangster Disciples’ alleged enforcer, Clayton. Both men lived in South DeKalb County, according to Wilson, and likely met because Clayton was a community activist, youth baseball organizer, and “man about town.”
The lawyer described Gumbs as “angelic” compared to his other co-defendants, which included Alonzo Walton, described as the “Governor,” or highest-ranking GD in the state, and Donald Glass, who allegedly ran a specialized team called the “Hate Committee” to carry out robberies, shootings and murders.
But the indictment isn’t the only disturbing case against Gumbs.
The former cop is now facing state charges, as well as a federal civil suit in Georgia, over excessive force accusations from a onetime suspect, James Leon Woods, who spent days in the hospital for a broken jaw.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Georgia, accuses Gumbs and four other DeKalb County cops of brutalizing Woods at a Decatur apartment complex on July 5, 2015 while he babysat his infant daughter.
Police identified Woods as someone who possibly had an outstanding probation violation warrant on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, court papers state. Woods “voluntarily submitted to the arrest” and was handcuffed, the lawsuit alleges.
During the encounter, Gumbs and three other officers are accused of assaulting Woods and attempting to trip him as they marched him down some stairs. One officer threw Woods into a fence, while Gumbs punched him in the face and broke his jaw, the complaint states.
Woods’ injuries were so severe that jail staff allegedly refused to book him and he was transported to the hospital, where he underwent surgery. The victim’s medical bills for reconstructive surgery to repair his jaw totaled more than $77,000, court papers allege.
After six days in the hospital, Woods was taken to the DeKalb County jail on a charge of felony obstruction of an officer. He remained behind bars until Aug. 5, 2015, when he was released on $5,000 bond. The obstruction charge was later dropped.
According to Woods’ complaint, Gumbs resigned from the DeKalb County force in October 2015, after a citizen reported seeing the officer using “illegal narcotic drugs in public, while off-duty” and an internal affairs probe was opened.
The civil suit also alludes to Gumbs’ supposed GD membership and claims Gumbs pummeled Woods because he thought he was a member of a rival gang.
“Upon information and belief, the reason Defendant Gumbs violently and viciously struck the Plaintiff is that Defendant Gumbs mistakenly thought that Plaintiff was a member of a rival gang or that he misidentified him as a member of his own gang, who was subject to a disciplinary order by the Gangster Disciples,” the lawsuit states.
Wayne Kendall, an attorney for Woods, told The Daily Beast that Gumbs and his fellow officers claimed Woods injured himself.
“They claimed my client banged his head into a wall when the truth was, after they handcuffed him, they threw him on the ground and beat the crap out of him, then tried to throw him down a flight of stairs,” Kendall said. Woods allegedly mouthed off, and Gumbs warned that he’d break his jaw if he said another word, Kendall added.
Gumbs does not appear to have an attorney in the civil matter. For his part, Wilson said the state allegations didn’t surface until the Gangster Disciples case was already underway. “I’m not aware of any actual evidence that the guy who [Gumbs] had a fight with was a gang member at all,” the lawyer told The Daily Beast.
The ex-cop also faces felony charges of aggravated battery and violation of oath by a public officer for the July 2015 beatdown of Woods. An arraignment in the case was rescheduled from May 20 to July 10, DeKalb County Superior Court records show.