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Gideon's Army gets tax dollars to work with police, but group leader says 'we don't work with the police'

Posted: 12:28 PM, Sep 28, 2021
Updated: 2021-10-02 16:46:58-04
Cumberland View August 2021.jpeg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gideon's Army has taken taxpayer money, promising to help the police develop better relations in North Nashville.

But officers say that never happened.

Now, as Gideon's Army asks Metro leaders for another million dollars of your money, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has dug up social media posts from one of the group's top leaders that, authorities worry, could actually make the streets less safe.

Among those posts, Hambino Godbody, the group's lead violence interrupter, warns about the evils of "snitching," declaring that "the penalty is death."

This follows NewsChannel 5's previous reports that revealed how members of the politically connected social-justice organization have exaggerated their success in reducing violence in one of North Nashville's roughest neighborhoods.

Do you have additional information for our investigation? Email: investigate@newschannel5.com

Godbody's social-media posts include one video of him confronting Metro police officers in the city-operated Cumberland View housing projects.

“Y’all just over here with your badges and sh*t trying to intimidate people,” Godbody said to the officers, who were calmly walking back to their car after responding to a citizen's call.

State documents show that, at the time, Godbody – his real name is Gerald Cunningham – was collecting $3,750 a month to work in that neighborhood under a state grant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Gideon's Army CEO Rasheedat Fetuga, "Is that the kind of behavior that taxpayers expect?"

"Phil, this doesn't sound neutral to me," she responded.

We pressed, "I'm asking the question: is that the type of behavior that taxpayers expect?"

"I hear you," Fetuga continued, "but that doesn't sound like a neutral question because I think it should be asked: what is happening in the community where one of our community keepers is feeling the need to be a challenge?"

Despite that attitude, last year, Gideon’s Army signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) to pay the group to deploy “violence interrupters,” to “collaborate with” Metro police and to “introduce MNPD Community Engagement Teams” to residents.

Gideon’s Army recently billed taxpayers another $50,000 for those services.

But Deputy Police Chief Dwayne Greene, who was in the room when MDHA signed the deal with Gideon's Army, says the group never followed through with its commitment.

"We have not seen that model," Greene said. "We have not seen that collaboration between the police department and the violence interrupters."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Has Gideon's Army ever taken your officers around and introduced them to the community?"

"No, they have not," the deputy chief answered.

"Have they ever invited any of your officers to their events?"

"No, they have not."

Deputy Police Dwayne Greene.jpeg
Deputy Police Chief Dwayne Greene

Fetuga was unapologetic.

"That's their job to already be out there and not our job -- and that's what I did communicate with MDHA, that that's not my responsibility, that's not our responsibility."

Last month, when police came to the neighborhood to arrest a Gideon's Army employee for violating his federal probation, Godbody convinced him to surrender.

But when residents tried to block officers from getting him out -- even, at some point, kicking the patrol cars -- Godbody celebrated the neighborhood spirit.

There's no evidence that anyone from Gideon's Army did anything to try to calm the crowd.

"There has to be a substantive collaboration and meaningful relationship between the interrupters and the police," Greene said.

"That is the model that we want, but that is not the model that we've seen here to date."

NewsChannel 5 asked, "And do you feel like you are on opposite sides, on different teams?"

"Yes, yes. At this point, it is."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Fetuga, "Can you work with the police?"

"Yeah, we do when we have to," the Gideon's Army founder said.

Resheedat Fetuga and Hambino Godbody.jpeg
Rasheedat Fetuga and Hambino Godbody

"Maturity is being able to work with people where you can and then disagreeing and agreeing to disagree where you can't."

In fact, Gideon’s Army was on the forefront of last year’s protests calling for defunding police.

On social media, Godbody -- one of Fetuga's top leaders in the streets -- routinely mocks the police.

"For you ignorant motherf**kers, let me break down what policing means. We ain’t on no motherf**king informant type sh*t," Godbody said in one video.

"What you don’t understand about the importance of taking care our own motherf**king people? See, if we do that we ain’t got to worry about the police being called over there. When the police come over there, we’re going to ask what the f**k you doing, didn’t nobody call you over here. We’ve got this.”

When a group of officers walked through the community last year, trying to get to know people, the Gideon's Army leader posted the video to Facebook, calling them “Klansmen.”

“The community is scared of y’all,” Godbody told them.

“Trust me," one officer calmly replied, "I ain’t out here doing nothing. We’re just out here, walking around, seeing if anybody needs anything.”

After Fetuga told us Godbody wasn't available to talk, he showed up for the interview and suddenly interjected.

"The way you're approaching it, you're approaching it in a way where you're trying to attack the situation," Godbody told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"The community is afraid of the police and feels threatened by the police, so I am the voice of the community letting them know how the community feels."

When NewsChannel 5 noted that, when police had come there to get to know people, he had told them that no one wants them there.

"That's a true statement though," Godbody insisted.

Watch excerpts of Godbody's posts (language warning) below:

Recently, when “It Still Ain’t Kool 2 Snitch” signs began popping up around North Nashville, promoting a new rap song, Godbody appeared in one of the rapper’s videos.

“We don’t work, we don’t cooperate with the police in no kind of way, you know what I mean?” Godbody said, referring to Gideon's Army.

Along with a group of neighborhood kids, another man – Nathaniel Marsh – and Godbody boasted about how they went to prison seven years ago for trafficking cocaine without anyone snitching.

“We don’t condone it on this side, man. We don’t respect it on this side, man," Marsh said.

The Gideon's Army leader agreed.

“We had five charged partners on our case. Didn’t nobody tell sh*t, you hear what I’m saying? You know, it really ain’t safe to tell on us either though because, like, we ain’t going for that type of sh*t, you know what I’m saying?”

In another social media post, Godbody compared snitches to killers, saying both are "bad for the culture."

Do you have additional information for our investigation? Email: investigate@newschannel5.com

Remember, Godbody's salary has been paid by taxpayers.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Rasheedat Fetuga, "Is that consistent with Gideon's Army's message?"

"Gideon's Army doesn't address those things one way or another," she claimed, ignoring the fact that Godbody is one of her top leaders.

Still, authorities worry that such talk will complicate efforts to make the streets safer.

"When I hear that kind of talk, I realize that, as a community, we are putting ourselves in a prison," said Allataye Russ, a gang probation officer working with Nashville's juvenile court.

He sees communities becoming prisoners to criminal elements because they're afraid to speak up.

Case in point: the murder of his 17-year-old cousin 20 years ago.

"My cousin is never going to come back to life and the people who actually killed her were never brought to justice," Russ said. "That's a hole we live with every day of our lives.

"Because people were afraid to snitch?"

"People were afraid to snitch."

Allataye Russ.jpeg
Allataye Russ, juvenile gang probation officer

In another video, Godbody was blunt in his assessment of snitchers.

“Like in war, if a soldier is caught and he tells secrets to another country, the penalty is death for the betrayal.”

As for the views of the Gideon's Army violence interrupter on snitching, Fetuga insisted that has nothing to do with Gideon's Army.

NewsChannnel 5 Investigates asked, "What is the proper role between Gideon's Army and police?"

"Just as it is, we're perfectly fine," she said.

"We're fine. And I think it's something that people just need to stop worrying about -- because we've got this."

Related:
Gideon's Army exaggerates success in reducing violent crime
Video shows Gideon's Army employee toting 'AK-47 style weapon'
Gideon's Army leaders voice controversial views on race, police, even Meharry president
Did Gideon's Army ignore warning signs about local gang leader?

Watch NewsChannel 5's previous report on the anti-snitching message:

Grieving parents upset over signs promoting a song about not snitching in Nashville