The sentence marked the end of a long fall for Gumbs, who moved to Stone Mountain as a teenager from the U.S. Virgin Islands and went on to fight against Taliban forces in the Middle East for the U.S. Army.
After deployment, he took a job at the DeKalb County Police Department. He patrolled South DeKalb, which was apparently where he met Kevin Clayton, a Gangster Disciples “enforcer.” On a wiretap, the FBI heard Gumbs give broad information to Clayton about what type of crime police were investigating one day in October 2015. Another time, agents heard Gumbs tell Clayton to avoid going to a sports bar that officers were raiding.
The most alarming bit of evidence against Gumbs was a text message he sent to the mother of one of his children: “I’m a gd hitman.”
Authorities said this meant he was a Gangster Disciples hitman, though prosecutors acknowledged in court that there was no evidence that he took part in any homicide.
His mother, Janelle Gumbs, testified Monday, telling the court that she believes her son was talking about being a “hitman” for the U.S. government in the Army. He’d used the same phrase to mournfully describe his deployment to her, she said, suggesting that “gd” must’ve meant referred to a curse, not “Gangster Disciples."
The war — the things he saw and did as a young man barely out of high school — damaged him, the mother said.
“When my son came back, he was not the son I dropped off,” Janelle Gumbs said on the witness stand. “I’m sitting here in a courtroom with folks who don’t know us, who weren’t there with us, who couldn’t hear him in his sleep, screaming.”
Vancito Gumbs with son Nolan in a family photo.
The defense argued for a sentence of three years, asking the court not to sentence Gumbs for racketeering involving murder. Wilson’s argument was that Gumbs took no part in any murder, while other defendants in the sprawling case were convicted of direct roles in murders.
It would be an “expansion of the law” to rule that anyone involved in a criminal enterprise that was tied to murders should be responsible for the murders, he argued.
But the jury found Gumbs guilty of racketeering involving murder. Prosecutor Erin N. Spritzer said Gumbs knew full well that the Gangster Disciples killed people.
“Vancito Gumbs did not need to be involved in any murder,” she said. “The defendant is essentially asking the court to overturn the jury’s verdict."