CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Gang or music groups? Members of Ape Squad speak out after police suggest they're involved in gang activity.
As Heartland News reported last week, Ape Squad was named among what police call gangs in southeast Missouri.
Cobret Joe, who founded Ape Squad, says the group isn't a gang at all, but a group of entertainers focused on making a positive difference for kids in Cape Girardeau neighborhoods. Joe says they don't want to steer them into crime.
"We are trying to put on for Missouri," said Cobret Joe. He's talking about his song, "From the Mo."
They hope to make it big, but he says recently promoters canceled two of their shows fearing the group would cause trouble.
"There's no criminal intent," said Joe. "In fact we have rules. We don't allow it."
Jonathan Cunningham is another member of Ape Squad.
"We're here to make money and music," Cunningham said. "Yes, we have a common goal. When it gets to criminal activity, that's exactly where we draw the line. We do not cross that line."
While Cunningham says his record is clean, Joe admits he's been arrested before. He says his experience in jail made him want to change his life. He says he now lives by the Ape Squad motto: R.I.S.E. or Respect Is Simply Earned.
Still, he says he's unfairly targeted. He says he feels it's partly due to the video camera he carries with him. Joe often documents street fights.
"It doesn't mean I'm involved in anything like that," said Joe. "If I record it and put it on YouTube then whoever wants to see it can see it. If you're standing in the street you're going to see it. It's no difference. The fights have nothing to do with Ape Squad what so ever."
"I think the public in general is out of touch," said Cunningham. "I don't just put it on police, I think everybody is."
Cape Girardeau Police say determining gang behavior is complicated. According to Lt. Barry Hovis, regardless of who it, if someone is video taping violent behavior that could be a criminal violation only if that person is also proven to be encouraging the fighting. However, he says simply video taping a fight is not a crime.