To the average person, seeing someone wipe the tip of his nose, then the sides with his left index finger and thumb might mean "I have an itch." Or possibly "I have a cold."

But to a member of the Bloods gang, according to court filings, it could mean "I don't trust him."


For the past year, federal prosecutors in Maryland have been pursuing a case against 35 alleged members of a Bloods group known as the South Side Brims. Recently filed court documents describe how the tightly organized gang operated, detailing a system of ranks, hand gestures and cultural lore — details that would otherwise be difficult to obtain without sustained access to the group.

An application to join the gang asked prospective members to list "Criminal Activities you indulge in" and reminded applicants, "any misleading or false information will be severely addressed."

The Bloods "set," led by a man prosecutors identified as Andre Roach, had members in Baltimore, Frederick and the Eastern Shore, according a contact list obtained by prosecutors. One defendant, Theodore Clifton Matthews, is accused of killing a member of the white prison gang Dead Man Inc. with a single close-range shotgun blast in South Baltimore.

Attorneys for Roach and Matthews could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roach is serving a 50-year prison term for a 1997 murder and, according to the filings, was given the go-ahead to establish his own Bloods set in Maryland by another member of the gang he met in prison. In 2005, Roach was given the rank of OG or Original Gangster, which signifies leadership status, and started using the nickname Redrum, according to filings in the case — an apparent reference to the movie "The Shining".

By 2008, prosecutors wrote, he had risen to the rank of Triple OG.

The gang's ranks proceed down through Original Young Gangster, Young Gangster, Baby Young Gangster and Baby Gangster, according to the indictment in the case. Rank-and-file members of the gang are referred to as "brims" or "hats."

Most Bloods sets also have a "first lady" who acts as the secretary and manager, according to the filings. Prosecutors allege Monique Hagler had that role in the South Side Brims.

The court documents say that in April 2005, Roach told Hagler to write up the founding documents of his new gang, including an employment application, body signals, graffiti, an organizational chart, a battle cry, guidance on running a harmonious gang and 14 directives known as "The Brim's Concept of War."

Hagler pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in March. Her attorney declined to comment.

Many of the documents reveal a reverence for ritual and attention to detail — Roach apparently referred to Baltimore City as Bity, to avoid using the letter C, which is tied to the Bloods' archrivals, the Crips — but some point to the violence prosecutors allege the gang perpetrated.

One of the concepts of war Roach outlined, according to the filings, reminded his members, "The injuries you inflict upon the enemy should be considered such a vicious act of terrorism that the damage inflicted causes the enemy to never consider revenge."

—Ian Duncan