Who is Tooka, the Chicago teen, who in 2012 was murdered in a gruesome gang shooting? And why is he so hated nowadays? Eight years after his killing, Tooka is reappearing in King Von’s lyrics and in internet discussions.
Who is Tooka?
Shondale Gregory, better known by his street name, Tooka, was a 15-year-old from Chicago.
On 12 January 2012, Tooka was waiting at a bus stop when a car pulled up in front of him. A passenger got out of the car and, after exchanging a few words, shot the teen multiple times. Tooka was pronounced dead at the scene.
Shondale Gregory, aka Tooka, was a known affiliate of Chicago gang the Gangster Disciples (GD). His shooting is thought to have been in retaliation for the death of another gang member, 17-year-old Eddrick Walker, aka Ty, who was part of the Black Disciples (BD) and is thought to have been killed by GD members.
As retribution for Tooka’s death, GD killed another BD gang member, 20-year-old Odee Perry. According to the Daily Mail, one of Tooka’s closest friends, Gakirah Barnes, may have been responsible for the killing. The Mail called her “one of the most notorious female gang members in US history”.
Barnes was murdered in 2014, at the age of 17, as supposed retaliation for Odee Perry’s slaying.
Why does King Von hate Tooka?
King Von is a rapper from O Block, in the south side of Chicago, named after Odee Perry by fellow gang members. King Von is the grandson of BD founder David Barksdale, otherwise known as King Dave.
As part of the rivalry between Chicago gangs, their members taunt each other via songs or on social media and King Von has mentioned “smoking tooka” various times.
Urban Dictionary defines “smoking tooka” as: “A word used to describe potent marijuana. Originated after Shondale ‘Tooka’ Gregory was murdered (smoked) by Chief Keef’s crew Black Disciples. Now ‘smoking tooka’ is used to humiliate Shondale’s death.”
In his song All These N****s, King Von raps the line: “Tooka in my lung, I say that every time, ’cause he got smoked. (He got smoked).”
This line is the reason Tooka is now back in the news and it’s causing the online community to speculate why King Von seems to hate him so much.
One user took to Reddit to say he thinks it’s because King Von took a beating from Tooka at some point.
In the video, a user is seen at 1:29 saying “F*** Tooka we took his life”. The video, originally posted on Instagram, reached over 8,000 views on live feed and is one of the reasons why the teen’s name is now trending online, more than eight years after his death.
Tooka is one of many gang members who have been brutally murdered and then mocked online. However, he is one of the few whose name is now known across the world.
To understand more about gang violence, watch this informational video on Chicago’s gang war.
Who Killed Tooka?
In the middle of the day on 11 April 2014, a hooded gunman ambushed Gakirah Barnes on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. A volley of bullets struck her in the chest, jaw and neck. The 17-year-old died in a hospital bed two hours later.
To many, her death was just another grim statistic from a city that has been struggling with gun violence. Last year, around 3,500 people were shot in Chicago, Illinois, of which 246 were aged 16 or younger; 38 of those children never celebrated another birthday.
But Barnes’s death was unusual for several reasons. She was a young woman in an epidemic of violence that largely affects black men. She also had an Internet following. Barnes had a reputation as a ‘hitta’ — or killer — with rumours of at least two dead bodies to her credit. Although never charged with murder, she embraced the persona, posing in photos and videos with guns in her hands and making threats against rival gangs on Twitter. In a morbid modern irony, it’s likely that she revealed her location in real time to her killer through a tweet. Police have yet to charge anyone in connection with her murder.
Desmond Upton Patton was sitting in his office at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor when he first saw the headlines about Barnes. The social worker had been studying ‘Internet banging’, or ‘cyberbanging’, the use of social media by gang-involved youths to challenge, taunt or threaten rivals1. The online disputes can often spill out into the streets as physical violence.
Patton took a deep dive into Barnes’s archived Twitter timeline and discovered a treasure trove of social-media data — random thoughts as well as boasts, threats and violent imagery. But what surprised him most, he says, was the grief. “My pain ain’t never been told,” Barnes wrote after a friend was killed just weeks before her own death.
What emerged from her timeline was a picture of a teenage girl who lived in a community steeped in violence, who was deeply hurt by it and who wanted revenge. Now at the Columbia School of Social Work in New York City, Patton thinks that social-media histories such as that of Barnes can offer ways to identify young people at risk of being involved in gun violence. He assembled an interdisciplinary group of researchers who use artificial-intelligence (AI) techniques to study the language and images in social-media posts to identify patterns of grieving and anger.
By developing tools to automatically recognize these telltale emotional signs, Patton hopes to provide a way for community organizations to intervene before digital fights turn deadly. Programmes in Chicago are starting to take notice. “Our violence-prevention outreach has to change because gangs have changed,” says Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of READI Chicago, an initiative aimed at reducing gun violence.