Rollin' 60's Gangster
"just senseless, senseless, brother"
The grizzly realness of street violence is one of the defining features John Singleton’s classic film Boyz in the Hood. It is a coming of age story depicting black youths trying to navigate life in inner city gangland. It is one of the defining films which captures gang life in 90’s Los Angeles. Even today the film serves as a harrowing reminder of how gang criminality and violence can suddenly and cruelly sweep up even the most promising youth and destroy lives. Yet even after viewing the film, few could imagine how closely life would imitate art for two young men, the Avery brothers Ché and Lloyd II, both of who worked on the film.
The eldest of the two Avery brothers was Ché Avery, his early life would draw eerie parallels to the protagonist of Boyz in the Hood, Tre Styles. Similar to the film’s depiction of Tre Styles, Ché Avery was a model student with a bright future and seemingly limitless potential. Yet despite his family’s best efforts to protect him from street life, Ché would willingly take a dark turn towards gang affiliation. He eventually found himself trapped in the world of gangland crime and mayhem. Ché’s embrace of the gangster lifestyle was brought on, in large part, by the company he surrounded himself with and the choices he willingly made.
The Avery Family
Born on October 7, 1971, in Los Angeles California, Ché Avery was raised by loving parents Lloyd Sr. and Linda Avery. Ché was the middle child of five siblings, his parents had struggled greatly to work themselves out of near poverty in their early lives. Ché’s father Lloyd Sr. had built himself his own repair business and his mother Linda fought her way through discriminatory hiring practices to become a senior accounting clerk at their local bank. The Avery’s focus was to have their children succeed and to provide better opportunities than they had growing up on the streets, free from the ballasts of street and gang influences.
In this effort, the Avery’s spent a lot of time with all their children and stressed Christian values and good behaviour. They demanded academic excellence from each of their children. Wholesome outlets, such as family outings to go fishing or hunting served as a brief escape from inner city life. During the week the Avery children were given extracurricular lessons in swimming, gymnastics and little league baseball. The Avery’s even had a pool installed outside their home all in an effort to keep their children off the streets.
As an adult Ché would recall “We were silver spoon kids. We never needed for nothing.” Ché’s upbringing would seem to provide the environment and tools needed to succeed. Yet he would become one of the incredibly unique individuals to turn their back on privileged family life, in favour of hardcore gang involvement and crime.
Ché had a seemingly ideal childhood in the Los Angeles suburb of Windsor Hills. With its palm-tree lined streets and bungalow houses, Windsor Hills was a firmly middle-class neighbourhood. Yet a sinister shadow was just around the corner. As with many inner city neighbourhoods, Windsor Hills bordered the gang infested divisions of Inglewood and South L.A. This proximity to gang life would prove to be Ché and Lloyd Avery II’s undoing. Ché would later say as a defendant in court “the family love was always there. I just felt some kind of attraction to the streets.”
Ché’s downward spiral began at the age of 17 from a seemly sensible act of parenting. His parents would enrol Ché in a bus in program which prevented him from attending Crenshaw High, where he would have been mixed in with the locals of ganglands from Inglewood and South L.A. Instead Ché’s parents enrolled him at Beverly Hills High School, a predominately White school that catered to the more affluent suburbs of Los Angeles. Yet Ché would still have to take the public bus from his house through some of the worst ghettos of L.A. to reach Beverly Hills High.
Rap and its pop status had exploded by the time Ché Avery was 17 and like many youths in inner city L.A. he had developed a taste for wearing black Raider hats, baggy sweatshirts and khakis. This style of dress was meant to imitate the Rap artists he enjoyed listening to, but was also the perennial uniform of LA gang culture. Ché’s parents would normally disapprove of the attire and its connotations but as Lloyd Sr. said “A friend of mine made his son look (dress) non-gang, and somebody stabbed him on the bus,” “Somebody sharpened up a screwdriver, put a point on it, and stabbed him, paralyzed him a little while. That taught me something… I told Ché whatever he needed to do to get from point A to point B, you do that.”
Ché’s dress sense made him a standout figure at Beverly Hills High, an honour student with a 3.6 grade-point average but his outward appearances made him look gang affiliated. Ché would eventually remember “All these little Caucasian kids… thought I was the stereotypical gang banger they’ve seen on TV. They just idolized it.” As Ché began to play up the role, his reputation grew not only at school, but out on the streets as well. Ché began to hang out and party more and more with cliques from his neighbouring Inglewood and South LA many of which had gang affiliations.
Despite this, Ché excelled in his studies to such an extent that come graduation time he was accepted to the prestigious universities of UCLA and UC Berkeley. But Ché began to be intimidated by the idea of attending university and his ability to win a much needed scholarship and financial backing. As a fall back Ché instead decided to differ his acceptance to university to stay close to home and attend a trade school like his father. It was this decisions to stay in his familiar surroundings which would exacerbate Ché Avery’s imitation of gang life into the real world. “I was living a kind of double life. At home… I was an ideal son. I looked up to my Dad. Then, as soon as my father turned his back, I’d be out doing things he couldn’t have imagined.”
Ché’s popularity on the street would grow from his willingness to commit random acts of violence and petty crime. His carefully crafted gangster charisma and ability to bring in girls from Beverly Hills to inner city parties would open further doors to street life. In order to solidify his image, Ché would eventually form his own clique which he named the DGF “Don’t Give a Fuck” Crew. As Ché himself explained, even this clique would not be (involved in regular gang activities) of actual gang involvement, “(We) don’t sell the dope, don’t sling the guns” in the way a gang does, might steal a few things… might have a few guns,” “But they mostly have parties, chase girls.” But Ché was consciously building his reputation harden street thug.
A school mate, Doran Reed, would recall about Ché during this time, “Ché once came to a party with Lloyd II and I. This whole other gang is there. All of a sudden, Ché starts throwing rocks at them. The other gang was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ “One of them recognizes Ché and was like, ‘Ché? Oh, let it go.’ That whole gang was there, and they didn’t fuck with Ché. That’s a little insight into how crazy Ché was.” Ché’s street credit only continued to rise.
His success in the creation of DGF would only make the lure of gang life even more appealing for Ché. With the same drive he pursued academic excellence, Ché deliberately set his sights on membership and status within elite gang circles. This decision led him to his local chapter of the Rollin’ Sixty’s Crips a subdivision of the Westside Crips criminal network, one of the most violent gangs in the United States at the time. Ché was seduced by the Rollin’ Sixty status, reputation and the ultra street credit that came with Crips affiliation. “The atmosphere, putting yourself in danger, the illegal activities… I can’t explain it,” he said. “I just wanted to fit in with them. I wanted to be part of the best.”
Ché Avery and the Rollin 60’s Crips
In 1990 Ché made inroads with the Rollin’ 60’s and his sustained involvement put him on a path to full initiation. “If you wanted to establish yourself as someone in your hood to be reckoned with, if you wanted to earn your stripes or even give your neighborhood a name, if you from a neighborhood and you already have a reputation of being troublemakers or being the toughest, then you have to not only defend your neighborhood but let’s go over here to such-and-such’s neighborhood and put in work without saying too much. Put in work — terrorize them, whatever comes with that.”
To this day, Ché never speaks of his crimes as a prospect for Rollin 60’s. Little is know about the specifics of the “work” Ché put in for the Crips gang during this time. But his efforts resulted in his full initiation into his local Rollin 60’s chapter and he earned the name “Blood Killer” or BK for short. Ché was welcomed into the gang, but the celebration was short lived as he quickly realised the true danger of outlaw life. Weeks after initiation into the Rollin’ 60’s one his local clique’s youngest members was horrifically gunned down in broad daylight.
Jason Jones, a child of only 14 years of age, was waiting for his friends by at gas station. Even deep Rollin’ 60’s turf was no protection from drive by shootings. A rival gang from neighbouring Compton would roll up on Jones, shooting him over 72 times with semi automatic weapons. The July 1990, slaying of Jones enraged Avery, and on a deeper level the systemic failure of local authorities to manage any leads in the case which was soon consigned to the pile of unsolved murder cases. This would be the first in a myriad of gangland killings that Ché would find himself mired in.
Later that year Ché’s best friend and Rollin’ 60’s associate Terrance Ferris, was killed by gunfire while in his parked car. Ché was once again beset by anger and a sense of injustice that nothing was done by law enforcement to bring Ferris’s killers to justice. These emotions were temporarily offset by the unexpected opportunity to work on the film Boyz in the Hood which both Ché and his younger brother Lloyd Avery II would contribute. Ché’s dress sense and knowledge of street culture earned him a place as an unofficial film consultant.
This temporary respite from the violent unpredictability of gang life was short lived. Only a few months after shooting on the film ended. Ché’s friend and mentor Earl “Little Looney” Williams was gunned down by a rival clique of Rollin’ 60’s. Intra-gang rivalries often occur in expansive criminal networks and the Rollin’ 60’s Crips were no exception to this. According to Ché, Williams was challenged to a fist fight by a neighbouring Rollin’ 60’s clique as punishment for “not putting in work for the gang”. Yet when Williams showed up for the fight he was met with a hail of bullets. The murder of yet another friend pulled Ché even deeper into his downward spiral of criminality and rage.
Ché began carrying a .22-caliber revolver at all times. Driving in his car while drunk Ché would find opportunistic crimes to commit with his side arm. This would soon lead to a full on crime spree of stick up robberies mainly targeting jewellery and jackets. Ché would later claim he did these crimes out of a sense of rage and indignity to the system which allowed public murders of his good friends go unsolved. Ché would give away most of his robbery hauls, yet continued his terrorizing string of armed robberies. “The money, the material things, didn’t give me as much satisfaction as seeing people scared,” Ché would claim in court. “I wanted to see somebody else feel the same pain and frustration that I was feeling.”
Arrest, Prison and Redemption
The life of crime would finally catch up with Ché in 1991, after a failed robbery led to Avery’s arrest. He was quickly identified and linked to two earlier criminal incidents. He spent seven months in jail before pleading guilty on all nine felony charges of armed robbery. During his sentencing, Court Judge Charles E. Horan struggled to understand how gang life could exert such influence over a teen of such intelligence and promise. Judge Horan would ask how “a kid who is not in any real way disadvantaged, a kid who has not been abused, beaten, molested, a kid who has been taken to school by his parents, who’s been clothed, fed and loved and taken to church… all of a sudden, at age 19 or 20, decides that the family values or law is of less importance to him than gang values.”
Avery could offer no explanation except the attraction of street life. His time in holding before the trial Ché Avery had plenty to consider. How had a young life of such promise and ambition lead here? Despite his decision to pursue a life of gang involvement and crime Ché still respected his parents most, especially his father. The guilt and remorse he felt was overwhelming. An adult Ché would later explain, “All of the stupid nights just doing stupid, stupid shit, every fucking night, just senseless, senseless, brother.”
From his time in holding waiting trial, Ché would assess the path that landed him in jail. Frequent visits from his parents helped Ché realise the emptiness of gang life, a path which only lead two ways, prison or death. As quickly as Ché adopted the ways of street life and criminality, he again swore off them all. Ché Avery would make an on the record denouncement of his own gang culture and asked forgiveness from his parents, who even now supported him in this most difficult moment in his life.
Such was the conviction of Ché’s renouncement of gangs and crime he fully acknowledge culpability in it all. Ché would astonish both judge and jury during a sentencing hearing on June 2, by interrupting the prosecutor during a cross examination, “I know I was wrong,” he shouted tearfully. “I know I have to do time, without a doubt.” “There’s a lot of temptation on the streets” “The attraction to the lifestyle is so strong, the peer pressure is so strong. Kids feel like they have something to prove to everyone except the right people.”
Over the next several years Ché would be transported to several different prisons within the Californian state penal system. He eventually became a resident in the notorious Chino prison (California Institution for Men), and was drafted into mandatory prison labor as a forest fire-fighter, during which he fought wild fires with other Chino inmates. Ché’s time in Chino was not an easy one. Violence and gang retribution were a constant threat. Being unaffiliated with a gang while incarcerated was a prospective invitation for robbery, beatings and rape at the hands of his fellow inmates.
It was Ché’s savvy street smarts and intelligence that kept his head above water. A Mexican gang robbed him at knife point, and when a cell mate ratted him out for sharpening shanks, Ché even spent time in the infamous Chino “hole”. But despite the hardships of incarceration, Ché would come to fully change his mindset and his ways. He befriended former members of rival street gangs and would take up the trade of carpentry and cabinet making.
Ché fully expected to come back to a straight life and back to his family values once related. One thing he had not counted on was his younger brother Lloyd Avery II following him into the downward spiral of gang life, crime and murder. As Ché put it, “When I went to jail, Lloyd was a goody-two-shoes, by the time I got out, he already had a case.” Only there would be no redemption for his younger bother Lloyd.
The Downfall of a Hollywood Actor
Lloyd Avery II would eventually have multiple cases against him by the time his brother was released from prison. Even afterwards, further charges would include burglary, weapons possession and battery. Lloyd Avery II’s path towards gang life would be even faster and more nefarious than his brother’s. After making a cameo role in Boyz in the Hood, as the gunman who kills the character Ricky Baker, he would rise to prominence within the LA ganglands.
Lloyd was bestowed an unearned street credit of sorts due to his role as a shotgun wheedling “Blood”. Lloyd made appearances in several other films which only entrenched his reputation as a gang banger and bizarrely his standing in actual gang circles. “No one could put their finger on it,” says Doran Reed the brother of Lloyd’s close friend “People that knew Lloyd were like, ‘What the fuck? How did Lloyd turn into a gangster?’”
Lloyd Avery II’s career in Hollywood’s film industry would be in tandem with his involvement in robbery, drug dealing, and actual gang involvement. Lloyd’s decent into the darkest reaches of life on the streets hit rock bottom in 1999 when he went on to commit a double homicide over a drug debt dispute. Even while on the run from law enforcement Lloyd would pursue his film career, attending casting calls and script readings.
However, law enforcement would eventually catch up with him. In 2001, Lloyd Avery II was sentenced to life in prison on two counts of first degree murder, which landed him in the notorious maximum security prison, Pelican Bay, that same year. “When I think back on Lloyd, I think it’s one of the greatest missed opportunities,” Roth says. “Had he been able to control himself and not commit a double murder, there is no doubt he would have been a big success.”
Much like his brother Ché, Lloyd II would go on to try and turn his life around while incarcerated. He too, renounced gang life and instead took up the bible. Lloyd II would become a born again Christian in prison and go even further by preaching the bible’s teachings to other prison inmates. Lloyd II’s devoutness earned him the nickname “Baby Jesus” in Pelican Bay. In a cruel twist of irony, Lloyds bid at redemption through Christ would be the reason for his gruesome satanic death.
As Lloyd Avery II had made a name for himself in Pelican Bay penitentiary as a man of Christ, his new cellmate Kevin Roby had too earn a reputation, becoming infamous for his belief in Satan. Kevin Roby’s story which lead to his own incarceration was of a much more sinister nature than Lloyd II. The gruesome rape and murder of his own sister earned Kevin Roby a life sentence at Pelican Bay without the possibility of parole. During his time in Pelican Bay, Roby’s penchant for performing satanic rituals in his cell earned the nickname “Satannic Christ”.
In 2005 Kevin Roby was transferred to be cell mates with Lloyd II Avery. Lloyd II would begin in earnest to spread his evangelical teachings to his new cellmate. Lloyd even wrote in a letter to the prison chaplain, “I know God has him around me for a reason.” “He (Roby) knows very well that I am a devout Christian, and I pray for him to the Lord every day that he gives his life to God.” But it would be Lloyd who would give up his life for God in the end. Avery’s attempts at winning theological arguments with Roby would build an heated animosity in their cell. Roby would later say in a deposition statement, “He was pushing his agenda to convert me to Christianity, which led to us fighting.”
One particular fight would end, according to court records, with Roby choking Avery so violently that Avery’s lungs began to internally bleed even as he lay unconscious on his cell room floor. The autopsy report would suggest that Roby would continue beating Avery’s unconscious body causing blunt force trauma to his head. For the next 36 hours, Roby would successfully cover up his cellmates murder, placing Avery’s dead body under bedsheets, even using string to mimic arm movement which fooled prison guards during morning and evening roll call.
The following day, the guards who discovered Avery’s body were met with a horrifying scene. Roby, using Avery’s own blood, had drawn a giant pentagram on the cell floor and dragged Avery’s corpse onto the center, spreading out the arms and legs to align with the pentagram. This satanic ritual, Roby would say in a deposition hearing, was intended as a warning. “He is next on the agenda once I accomplish what I want to accomplish in this realm”. Roby would go to trial for the satanic murder of Lloyd II, but as he was already sentenced for homicide and was not eligible for the death penalty.
From a promising family of five, it was two Avery brother who chose a path of gang affiliation and crime. But only one of these brothers would be able to escape a violent death. After the murder of his brother Ché Avery would move to Augusta with his own family to once again turned a new page in his life. Even here the shadow of gang life followed him, “There are Crips and Bloods out here,” he said, “And they seriously think they’re Crips and Bloods and claim streets from L.A.”
“There are guys out here from Hoover Crips. There are guys out here from Rollin’ 60s, so they say.” Despite this Ché kept his vow to renounce gang life, he has a successful business, while making sure his son (who he named Lloyd after his deceased brother) chooses the right path. Though Ché’s life now follows the straight and narrow, he still keeps some mementos from his brother. The bible Lloyd II used while in Pelican Bay, still has his handwriting in the margins of almost each page. Today, Ché chooses to focus on the silver lining of his brother’s life and death, “He died in God’s favor… That’s what this story is about.”