Noted former Oakland, California drug kingpin Darryl (Little D) Reed was released from a federal prison in Oregon this week after 26 years of incarceration via a presidential commutation from Barack Obama, one of more than 600 prisoners convicted of non-violent narcotics offenses already freed by the outgoing, two-term U.S. President in the past year. The diminutive and charming 48-year old Reed ran Oakland’s turbulent crack cocaine scene in the late-1980s, continuing on the legacy of his uncle-by-marriage, Felix (The Cat) Mitchell, the Bay Area’s historic slain drug boss and his so-called “69 Mob,” named after the block Mitchell was raised and constructed his empire on (more specifically, 69th Avenue’s housing projects, the San Antonio Villas and the Acorn Apartments).

Flashy, ambitious and beloved, Felix the Cat revolutionized the heroin business in Oakland and San Francisco and gained folk-hero status on the streets by beating prior drug and homicide indictments before finally falling in a massive narcotics, murder conspiracy and tax evasion case in the mid 1980s. Reed brought the 69 Mob into the crack era. Through both periods, the gang was clearing millions of dollars a year in revenue. Obama pardoned Reed in August.

Barely 20 years old at the time of his arrest in late 1988 – days removed from an opulent black-tie birthday party he threw for himself at a ritzy ocean-side country club -, Reed was sentenced to three and a half decades behind bars by a federal judge in 1990 for racketeering and drug offenses. He had been arrested in December 1988 in a DEA sting in the process of cooking a large batch of drugs. Authorities confiscated a then-record 44 pounds of rock cocaine. While in prison, Reed penned a book (entitled “Weight”) and took frequent visits from a who’s who of Oakland hip-hop luminaries such as Too Short, Mac Dre, E-40 and MC Hammer to name a few.

Felix Mitchell’s feared 69 Mob ruled the streets of Oakland in the late 1970s and first half of the 1980s. Little D came up in the drug game as a runner for Mitchell in his elementary and junior high school age years. By the time he was 16, he was a shot caller in the organization, being groomed to succeed his uncle.

Beginning in the summer of 1980, Mitchell went to war with a pair of upstart drug gangs attempting to grab territory belonging to the 69 Mob. One gang was called “The Family” and was led by soul-singer-turned-drug don Milton (Mickey Mo) Moore, the other was known as “Funktown USA” and headed by Harvey (Big Wiz) Whisenton. From very early on in his gangland career, Mitchell aligned himself with the Black Panther Party, the militant political group founded in Oakland the previous decade, according to his police file, forging a close relationship with Panther leader Huey Newton, as well as building bonds with similar-minded African-American drug czars in L.A., New York and Detroit. Whisenton’s Funktown USA had ties to the Black Guerilla Family prison gang.

Felix Mitchell was imprisoned in 1985 and killed inside his cell at Leavenworth Penitentiary the following year at only 32, leaving the door open for Little D Reed and his second-in-command Timothy (Timmy Black) Bluitt to take over the 69 Mob and expand into the nation’s burgeoning cocaine industry – they rebranded themselves “LDI” (Little D Inc.) and were being supplied by Rudy Henderson, a former bodybuilder and Bay Area wholesaler who lived in a castle and maintained a fleet of 50 mint-condition classic automobiles.

Moore and Whisenton were locked up in 1985 too. Henderson made it to 1987. Bluitt didn’t go down until 1991, his gang (the former 69 Mob) under siege by a breakaway faction of the organization led by the notoriously-lethal Anthony (The Ant) Flowers. Oakland police place the body count for the early 1990s drug war at 16 murders.

Newton was slain in 1989 by a Black Guerilla Family and Funktown USA affiliate. Released from prison in 2002, Henderson was killed four years later sitting in his car outside a popular eastside Oakland restaurant. Moore has turned to religion and makes his living as a preacher these days.

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