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In 1998, notorious Chicago gang member Charles Edward Bey stood in front of the congregation at the Progressive Community Church on the South Side and apologized for his life of drug dealing and violence. Last week, after finally building a better reputation for himself in the community, Bey died of natural causes at 67.
Bey, along with gang leader Jeff Fort, formed the Black Stone Rangers street gang in the 1960s, NBC Chicago reports. Both men were feared in their South Side community, and Fort eventually changed the name of the Rangers to El Rukn Tribe of the Moorish Science Temple after converting to Islam in prison. El Rukn eventually became the most feared gang in Chicago. In the 1980s, Fort allegedly told Libyan officials that his gang would commit acts of terrorism in the U.S. in exchange for $2.5 million. He is currently serving a life sentence on domestic terrorism charges.
The Chicago Sun-Times has more on Bey's troubled past:
“I didn’t think anything short of a stake through his heart would have killed him. He was that tough,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan, who in the early 1990s prosecuted the El Rukn street gang.
“Everybody was afraid of him,” Hogan recalled Wednesday.
A notorious alleged contract killer, Bey was a shooter who, in turn, got shot many times, according to law enforcement officials.
In 1986, Bey was wounded in an apparent "assassination attempt," the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. Fellow South Side drug dealer Willie "Flukey" Stokes was suspected in the shooting -- and it didn't take long for Bey to seek revenge.
The Tribune covered the shooting death of Stokes in November of 1986, just three months after Bey was gunned down:
Police point to retaliation for a failed assassination attempt of onetime street gang leader Charles Edward Bey, 41, as the motive behind Stokes` death. Stokes had put the word out on the street that he would pay $50,000 to anyone who would hit Bey after he went up against Stokes in a drug trade power struggle.
Bey and another man were shot and seriously wounded in September, and police said Bey had vowed to take revenge on Stokes for the shootings.
Despite multiple arrests for murder, Bey was ultimately not convicted in any of them. Law enforcement officials told the Sun-Times, however, they believe he was a "contract killer" for many years.
During Bey's funeral on Wednesday, more than 700 people filed in and out. (Watch NBC Chicago's coverage of the funeral above) Rival gang members, community leaders and even a former Cook County Jail warden came to pay their respects. Bey spent the last decade of his life trying to encourage young people in the Woodlawn neighborhood to stay out of gangs.
“Bey was one of the guys that made a real change,” former warden of Cook County Jail, Richard English, told the Sun-Times. “Sometimes rehabilitation to you and I may not be the same thing to some of those guys who used to be hard-core gangsters and killers."
Read more about Bey's funeral here.