Stanley “Tookie” Williams: A Changed Man on Death Row

The founder of the Crips ended up being the one who spoke out against gang violence in his later years. Find out the story of Stanley “Tookie” Williams.

Stanley “Tookie” Williams is well-known for being the one who founded the Crips gang. Williams later said how he regretted a lot of his life choices, while he was in prison. Williams was ultimately executed in 2015 at the San Quentin State Prison.


Stanley “Tookie” Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 29, 1953. When Williams was young, his family moved out to Los Angeles. This is where Williams got caught up in street life.

Williams and a few of his friends then created the gang that is known as the “Crips”. It would be only a matter of time until Williams would be arrested, charged, and convicted of a murder that was tied to the gang’s violent activities.

Due to the gang’s violence, Williams would ultimately be executed on December 13, 2005, in the San Quentin State Prison.

Early Life

As we have already established, Stanley “Tookie” Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 29, 1953. Williams was the founder of the well-known violent gang, the Crips.

When Williams was born, his mother was only 17 years old. Williams mother left to raise Williams by herself when Williams father left the family. Just a few years later in 1959, Williams and his mother moved from New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California via the Greyhound bus. They moved to Los Angeles in hopes of having a better life.

Williams later recounted that their first apartment out here in Los Angeles was situated in an affluent-looking South Central neighborhood. He described the neighborhood as a shiny red apple with a rotten core.

Williams recounted that when he was younger, he found the street life was much more interesting than sitting at home. Williams started his street life when he was the tender age of 6. As the new kid in the neighborhood, Williams had to learn the ropes quickly when it came to defend himself from those neighborhood bullies. During this time, Williams found himself in the middle of many physical altercations.

Williams was immersed in an environment of drugs and violence with little to no parental influence. Williams grew up with his idols being criminals and mimicking drug dealers and pimps.

During Williams teen years, Williams was paid to feed, water, and patch up dogs that were involved in illegal dogfights. These dogs than would either be beaten to death or shot by hustlers and gamblers in his neighborhood.

When these illegal dogfights were not enough, Williams was then paid to box other kids in his neighborhood until they were unconscious. All these experiences harden the exterior and interior of Williams.

The Crips Gang

Growing up Williams did not really attend school. Williams was always convinced that he could do much better in the streets and earn his reputation with his fists rather than with his brain. While Williams fought, he did end up making a few friends. With these friends, he ended up stealing and making some quick cash. One of these new friends he met back in 1969 was Raymond Washington.

Washington and Williams formed a group that is now very well known. This group is known as the Crips. The Crips was originally made to protect their neighborhood from the other bigger gangs.

The original Crips gang members was not as large as it was today. The Crips group only had around 30 members total. But shortly after they divided into the Eastside and Westside Crips.

In 1979, the Crips then evolved into a statewide gang. During this time, this is when Washington and Williams lost control over the gang.

With the division of the Crips gang, it was the downfall of both Washington and Williams. Unfortunately, in 1979, Washington was murdered in Los Angeles. Washington’s murder was blamed on the Hoover faction in the Crips, which ended up resulting in a war between the other Crip factions and the Hoover. To this day, there was no one arrested for Washington’s murder, but over the years many theories arise that Washington knew his killer very well.

Crips Gang Violence

That very same year, Williams along with three other gang members were under the influence of some PCP-laced type of cigarettes. These four droves to a convenience store with the motive of robbing the store clerk.

According to the police reports, Albert Owens, the 26year-old store clerk decided to walk to the backroom while the four gang members took the money from the cash register. Williams then shot out the security monitored from the backroom and killed Owens execution-style.

Out of that incident, the four made out with $120 from the register. Later, Williams denied ever killing Owens that night.

Then later March 11th of that very same year, prosecutors stated that Williams broke into the office of the Brookhaven Motel located in Los Angeles. When Williams was inside, he supposedly killed three Taiwanese family members who operated the business.

Then a ballistic expert was able to link the shell casings at the motel to the gun Williams used. Even a few gang members testified against Williams stating they he was bragging about the murders to them. Per usual, Williams denied this shooting as well. Williams stated that he was being framed by the other gang members.

Imprisonment and Rehabilitation

Then in 1981, Williams was charged and convicted in a Los Angeles Superior Court for four murders along with two counts of robbery. Williams was ultimately sentenced to death.

Then on April 20, 1981, Williams was sent out to the San Quentin State Prison to sit on California’s death row.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, Williams had a hard time adjusting to the prison life. By the mid-1980s, Williams had received 6.5 years in solitary confinement. Williams was sent to solitary confinement for several assaults on guards along with his inmates.

Then only two years into his solitary confinement sentence, Williams started self-reflecting on his life choices up to this point. Williams repented for many of his past actions. Williams stated that he repented his actions because he found God.

This was a huge turning point in Williams life. Williams shortly after started speaking out against the gang violence and the gang life.

In 1988, Williams filed a federal appeal. In this appeal, he told the court officials that he was a new man. That he changed, but later his appeal was denied.

Then in 1994, Williams was finally out of solitary confinement. With his new outlook on life, he started writing a book just two years later in 1996. This book was written with the help of Barbara Cottman Becnel, who is the co-author. Williams published eight books total. These books were for children and speaking against the gang violence and the gang life that he once led.

Anti-Violence Work

A member of the Swiss Parliament, Mario Fehr, in 2002, nominated Williams for a Nobel Peace Prize due to his work speaking out against the gang violence. Even though, Williams did not win the award, many of Williams supporters spoke highly of the former gang member’s turnaround. Ultimately, Williams would be nominated 5 more times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Later, in 2002, Williams decided to do another federal appeal to turn over his death sentence. The appeals board urged the judge to think about making Williams death sentence into just life behind bars without the possibility of parole, stating that Williams is trying all he can to help with anti-gang education. Once again, this appeal was denied.

Williams was a part of creating the Tookie Protocol for Peace in 2004. The Tookie Protocol for Peace is an agreement for one of the most infamous yet deadliest gang wars the country has ever seen between Crips and the Bloods. President George W. Bush sent a letter to Williams commending Williams for his actions.

Death Row & Execution

In 2005, with Williams death sentence coming up, Williams then petitioned for clemency one last time. The California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sat down and met with Williams to help figure out if he could commute his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Williams defense team along with the prosecutors had around a half hour to plead their case to Schwarzenegger. After meeting with Williams, himself, Schwarzenegger for the last time denied Williams clemency motion, stating that there was too much forensic evidence that tied him (Williams) to the murders in 1979.

Then on December 13, 2005, Williams was ultimately executed in the San Quentin State Prison by lethal injection.

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