Legendary Baltimore Drug Kingpin Rudy Williams Reacts to Riots From Prison

A Baltimore Metropolitan Police transport vehicle burns during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

BALTIMORE, MD — In the 1990s, Baltimore's Linwood "Rudy" Williams was charged with trafficking 30 kilos of heroin with a street value of $10 million. Deemed a "super kingpin" by law enforcement, Williams was found guilty of seven drug-related charges and an eighth federal charge for conspiracy. Today, one of Baltimore's best known criminals is serving life plus 130 years in prison.

Williams has devoted time to teaching Baltimore's youth that gang life and drug dealing, while seemingly lucrative and attractive, are not worth it. Though life in prison is isolating, it was apparent Williams was well aware of the situation surrounding Freddie Gray's death and the ongoing protests and violence in Baltimore. An African-American, Gray died from a spinal cord injury after he was arrested; the circumstances of his death are being investigated by authorities.

Unlike the initial peaceful protests following Gray's death, Monday's demonstration turned into a riot.

"The riots were started by the police when they killed Freddie Gray," Williams told Newsweek via email. "My people were waiting to see what if anything the politicians were going to do to hold the policemen who killed Freddie Gray responsible. When they didn't do anything but blame the victim and yack about 'thugs and gangs', as they always do, my people took matters in their own hands." Williams pointed to a culture of institutional racism as motivation for protests in the city.

Baltimore has a notable gang population, with more than 2,000 known members in 170 organizations. These groups operate much of the heroin, cocaine and marijuana trade in Baltimore. The police have named three groups as primary aggressors: the Crips, the Bloods and the Black Guerrilla Family. On Monday, the Baltimore Police Department said it received a "credible threat" that they had unified and aimed to harm law enforcement.

Self-identified members of the Crips and Bloods denied any such unification in interviews with Newsweek and other media outlets. Like Williams, however, they pointed to a culture of racism in the city. "The real enemy really is the police but at the end of the day people gotta learn when it is time to help the community and when it's time to do the other shit on the side," a Crips member who used the alias "Mugga" told Newsweek.

Members of gangs and the clergy led peaceful demonstrations in the days following Gray's funeral as a show of support for Baltimore. "I've seen the 'gangs and gangbangers' come together lots of time and do real good things under pressure," Williams explained. "I'm sure that they would do even more good deeds if society was set up for all people to do good naturally."

Though Williams promoted the idea of peaceful protest, he saw a long road ahead for Baltimore: "As long as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, nothing will bring permanent peace and safety to Baltimore or America, because world history teaches us that you cannot keep on robbing, killing and treating people worse than animals and not expect them at some point to fight back. To expect otherwise is pure arrogance, racism and egotism."

In Focus

Photos: After Violent Riots, a Calmer Night in Baltimore

Protests tied to the death of Freddie Gray were more muted on their second night.
Launch Slideshow 10 PHOTOS

Additional reporting by Victoria Bekiempis