‘Maniac,’ a member of the Lil Heads who is incarcerated in the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility, lends a hand with identifying gang territories for The Blade’s Toledo gang map. A tattoo on his hand, below, refers to the 600 block of Fernwood Avenue, which the Lil Heads control.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
“Maniac” has one goal in mind: spread the motto of his organization.
“I’m from Smith Park. I’m known as a Lil Head; in Toledo we considered a gang, but, really, we a family,” he said.
Some of them are actually family members — brothers, cousins. A lot of them are friends who grew up together and, over the years, have become close enough to call one another brothers or cousins.
Maniac will let The Blade use his street name and take his photograph but won’t allow his real name to be published. Gang logic.
But he’s right — the Lil Heads have a nasty reputation in Toledo.
Mention the name to anyone with any working knowledge of gangs in the city, and they’ll tell you that the Lil Heads are a group of dangerous, trigger-happy young men.
Toledo police don’t disagree.
In 2012, they filed participation in a criminal gang charges against seven Lil Heads, who, in court documents, were referred to as the “Smith Park Mafia.”
THE SERIES: Battle Lines: Gangs of Toledo
THE MAP: Interactive Map of Gang Territories
About the series:
The Smith Park Mafia was a gang in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but most of the men who were involved with that have “aged out.” After the Smith Park Mafia, that area — mostly along Fernwood Avenue near the actual Smith Park — was claimed by a second-generation gang, New Breed Family.
The Lil Heads run the block these days.
Although it’s hard to argue that Fernwood sees more than its share of violence, Maniac, 22, says there is more to the neighborhood than that.
“I know we’re considered a high-risk, a high-crime area, but at the same time, we do good things for the community,” he said.
Maniac, a father of two, said the Lil Heads host an annual Father’s Day barbecue at Smith Park. Everyone in the neighborhood — including rival gang members — is invited.
The party — with food, sports, activities for children — is usually broken up by police, Maniac said, but once the crews roll out, the party is back on.
Maniac, who has a tattoo on the side of his face that most police officers probably don’t care for, is currently locked up at the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility for carrying a concealed weapon and failure to comply.
He says he was in a car with some friends when police pulled behind them and a chase began. He jumped out of the car and ran, though he didn’t make it far. Police said they found a gun in his path; he says it wasn’t his.
“It’s personal for us because we get blamed for things we don’t do,” he said. “And we get put in situations where we weren’t there,” he said. “… I know what I signed up for when I got in. This is what being in the street gets you whether you did it or not.”
The family, Maniac said, is about supporting one another, and that can mean a lot of different things, but it always comes back to money. You’ve got to be able to contribute.
To make his contribution, Maniac said he has both held jobs and hustled — sold drugs, robberies, break-ins.
What will happen when he leaves CTF is anyone’s guess, but he knows what he wants, and it isn’t something he can find on the streets. Not if he wants to be a dad to his sons.
“Just being out there is going to lead to nothing but jail or death,” “Maniac” said.
“That’s what Toledo is about now. Kill or be killed. Or go to jail. … I’m going to try to remove myself from those situations because I know at any given moment what I’m capable of doing and the next man is capable of doing the same thing.”
Death isn't a stranger to Maniac. Too many funerals. Christopher Ross. Deandre Green. Justin Smith.
“I’m trying to change for my kids,” he said. “ … I don’t want them to follow in my footsteps and be a menace to society, be labeled as a menace to society when you really not. … I don’t want them to be stereotyped by the type of tattoos they got. I want them to be better. I want them to do things I didn’t do. I want them to be able to say, ‘That’s my dad.’ ”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.