As Bethlehem police were investigating a stabbing last year at a Dover Lane home, they came across a backpack with an inch-thick binder stuffed inside.
Officers needed only to read the title on the binder's cover to know they had found a key piece of evidence, one that would unlock the secrets of an increasingly menacing street gang.
The binder held the "Latin Kings Bible," the gang's manifesto. Stuffed inside its cover were hundreds of yellow-lined sheets of paper on which rules, codes, drawings, poems, prayers, rituals and symbols were collected.
Bethlehem police shared their find with federal authorities, who referenced the bible last week in indictments filed against 35 alleged members of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe of the Latin Kings. Hundreds of officers — local police, federal drug agents and SWAT team members — arrested dozens of the alleged Kings Wednesday, saying they used murder, kidnapping and assault to amass "territory, power and profits," in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.
The bible is listed in a search warrant inventory from the March 11, 2009, stabbing at the 1104 Dover Lane home, where police also found crack cocaine, heroin, an AK-47 and digital scales.
"It was a great find for law enforcement, because it gave us a lot of insight into the gang situation in Bethlehem," said Bethlehem police Lt. Mark DiLuzio.
"For the Kings, it wasn't so good," he said. "For a King to lose his bible, that's a big no-no."
Police figure gang members weren't happy that someone had carelessly left the bible unprotected. The day after the stabbing, police returned to the home to find a large stuffed monkey with a noose around its neck dangling from a tree. The word "snitch" was scrawled on a note nearby.
Like the Ten Commandments
The manifesto lists rules that Latin Kings across the country and world follow. But gang experts say local chapters often write additional rules.
They outline dress codes and chains of command, as well as a list of prohibited behavior.
The right hand is considered the dominant hand and is always displayed in front of the left. When members "throw" a hand sign of a crown, the Latin Kings' symbol, they must use the right hand.
Members should not sit with their legs crossed because their right leg represents the "King" and should not be crossed.
Members are allowed to sell heroin and crack, but prohibited from using the drugs. Smoking marijuana is allowed, but only during certain hours.
Kings are instructed to respect each other and not fight. They are not allowed to seek retaliation against fellow members without approval from higher-ranking members.
Any member that participates in homosexual activities will be suspended pending an investigation by a chapter council.
Some of the rules mimic the Ten Commandments: A member must not steal. A member must not "lust for pleasure" in another member's spouse.
Others are specific to chapters. Federal court records released Friday detail the Bethlehem Sun Tribe's laws, which state: "While a brother is speaking, he is to hold his crown upright until he is finished. If another brother interrupts, violations are a fine for the first violation, 'physical' for the second violation" and, "Any brother can urine test another brother if paid for by themselves."