Brooklyn may have gentrified, but a few neighborhoods didn't receive the memo that they're to transition into a Portlandia-like paradise. One such spot was the Gowanus projects in downtown Brooklyn, mere blocks from the Barclays Center. It was there in 2010 that, according to a report this weekend from the New York Daily News, gang leader, heroin kingpin, and then-burgeoning rapper Ronald "Ra Diggs" Herron was nabbed by the NYPD...for dropping a cellophane gum wrapper.
Police officer Carlos Anchundia recently testified in Brooklyn Federal Court about what happened next: “I stopped hundreds of people in my career and he’s first person who was wearing body armor." Ra Diggs was subpoenaed for the "heavy military-style body armor" he was wearing the following day.
This was just one step closer to the DEA's October 2010 sweep that led to Herron's arrest. He's been charged with 23 counts of racketeering; in addition to littering, he was brought down through confidential informants and his rap music, in which he rapped about crimes he'd committed.
This, of course, isn't the first time this has happened. But Ra Diggs was a more high profile underworld MC than most. Ra Diggs was in a group called the Murder Team with Uncle Murda, who both appeared on Waka Flocka's Flockaveli in 2010:
In that song, you can hear Ra Diggs rap about a particular murder which may or may not be based upon real events: "Nigga shot me five times, two days later the nigga died." According to court papers cited in the Daily News, in 2000, Herron was shot by a rival but survived; Herron's associates allegedly killed the shooter two days later. In another song cited by the paper, “I don’t respect the shooter because he shot me in the legs and two days later he was dead, the little n****. See, if he was smart he would have shot me in the head because I can get ya shot from my hospital bed."
Although Herron dodged a murder charge then, this month, his trial begins. Police allege he was also responsible for the 2008 execution of Richard Russo in the elevator of a Gowanus projects building, and the killing of Victor Zapata in a Wyckoff courtyard the following year.
Although Ra Diggs is likely facing life in prison, it's worth observing that, as rapping criminals go, he was a pretty effective artist; his tape Pray For My Enemies is worth listening to if you have no moral compunction with listening to the music of an accused murderer. "Kill Ya Self" is something else.
His criminal life wasn't Ronald Herron's first time in the news. In 1994, in the Gowanus Houses in Brooklyn, Ronald Herron was playing cops and robbers with his friend Nicholas Heyward Jr., when Heyward was killed by a policeman who had confused a toy gun for a real weapon. At the time, Herron said he saw the policeman crying as he was led away from the scene.