|Founded||Founded in 1994 by Martin Lorenzen and Matt Sopron|
Founded in Clearing, 62nd and Normandy
|Colors||Black and Grey|
Cross with 5 slashes above it and a halo
For this history I am not going to get into the whole Insane Pope history; however, that is the organization where the Almighty Popes spawned out of, the larger Insane Pope nation. The Insane Popes on the north side were first, and the south side Insane Popes started in 1974 at Archer and Komensky in the Archer Heights neighborhood. The original name of the north siders was “Almighty Popes.”
In the year 1989 Chris “Thee Kidd” Hamilton and Martin Lorenzen started their own section of Insane Popes at 62nd and Normandy in the Clearing neighborhood. By the early 1990s this section became quite popular and grew significantly, then in 1993 that section began to shrink and if I understand correctly Chris Hamilton flipped to become a Latin King and perhaps this could be a reason for this section’s decline.
In the year 1994, the 62nd and Normandy branch developed beef with the rest of the IPN and this led to this section breaking away to become the “Almighty Popes.” The Almighty Popes became very tight with the Latin Counts and even adopted their own gang symbol which was a hybrid of the Insane Pope halo and cross symbol and the Latin Counts’ five slashes cross. Because of this tight relationship with the Counts the Almighty Popes and Twelfth Street Players went to war. The Almighty Popes also went to war with Insane Popes but there was never a murder between each gang the whole time the war went on. The leaders and possible founders of the APs was Matt “Misfit” Sopron with his second in command Wayne Antusas.
The APs grew into new areas and multiplied into the hundreds in membership. The APs colonized the Vittum Park area in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood at 50th and Leclaire and they made a move down the road to 50th and Kilpatrick and down at 49th and Long. The APs also ventured into the Archer Heights neighborhood and opened a set at 51st and Kostner. One of their significant sets was at 46th and Whipple in the gang infested Brighton Park neighborhood, making this a daring colonization but it worked for a while. The APs also ventured into the nearby suburbs of Summit and Bridgeview (at 71st and Harlem). The Popes also opened a faction in the suburb of Orland Hills at 162nd and Haven.
In 1995, the Almighty Popes were at the peak of their power and had a promising future in expansion. It almost appeared that they would outpace the Insane Popes in growth, the APs were definitely becoming a vacuum for all potential recruits in the Midway area. All this success would collapse due to one shooting incident on December 14, 1995 at Hale Elementary School, 6140 S. Melvina Ave (61st and Melvina) in the Clearing neighborhood.
The Ridgeway Lords street gang was a gang dying out since the 1980s that came from the Little Village neighborhood, now the gang was trying to stay alive in the Justice, IL suburb which was not far at all from the Midway Airport area. Three Ridgeway Lords gang members had been seen in the area in a gold colored mini van very frequently. The Almighty Popes had seen it before and saw the guys looked like gang members and flashed signs at them causing the three to represent Ridgeway Lords. It was at that point that the van was marked as a rival gang especially since the Ridgeway Lords were a Folk Nation gang. The APs were upset that these RLs would start recruiting in the area so they were told to watch out for the van; however, some of the members of the gang took things too seriously. Sopron did not order this vehicle to be shot up; however, a group of Popes including Nicholas Morfin, William Bigeck, Nicholas Liberto, Eric Anderson and a Latin Count gang member Edward Morfin, the cousin of Nick Morfin gathered up to plot on shooting this van up. The real reason the RLs were in the neighborhood is because one of them started dating 13 year old Helena Martin even though he was 18 years old. 13 year old Carrie Hoval was Helena’s good friend and the girls would hang out in this van.
On Thursday December 14, 1995 William Bigeck, Nicholas Morphin and Eric Anderson got a .357 magnum and .44 caliber revolver that they had stolen from a nearby Chicago police officer’s home in the neighborhood, and walked across the park and opened fire on the gold van. The van had 5 people in it including at least 2 Ridgeway Lords gang members, neither gang member was shot or the third other male, instead Carrie Hoval and Helena Martin were the ones that took all the bullets and died at the scene.
After the shooting, all five members involved in the shooting were arrested including the two AP gang leaders Antusas and Sopron. Gang member testimony claims they heard Matthew Sopron say “We need to pull a roll on this van” meaning to shoot it up; however, later many said they were lying or wrong. The court case was confusing to say the least. In the mean time Almighty Popes were having a hard time keeping it together entering 1996. Gang members were tattling on each other over this court case and the Chicago Police were red hot on both the Almighty Popes’ and Insane Popes’ tail. On the whole south west side CPD was hunting down Popes and clearing them off the streets and arresting them for anything and everything. Several Popes of both Pope gangs were finding themselves locked up and arrested and this led to territory loss for both gangs and recruitment lagging.
As the leaders of the Popes were still awaiting trial by December of 1997, there was a big Almighty Pope bust in the suburb of Orland Hills. At the address of 16199 S. Haven Ave, the Almighty Pope gang leader of the suburban operations Shawn Robinson, who was 18 years old at the time, had rented this house at 162nd and Haven and was throwing wild parties while running drug operations on this street corner. Things started escalating by 1997 as neighbors were reporting the increased gang activity as the Popes multiplied to having about 30 members at this Orland Hills faction. Shawn Robinson was a dangerous individual that had been arrested for several crimes before, including an incident where he slashed a woman’s face. Robinson was originally from the intersection of 62nd and Knox in the Clearing neighborhood. By October of 1997, Robinson began plotting to murder an Orland Hills police officer. Robinson came into possession of a sawed off shotgun and was ready to creep into his yard and enter the home and do the murder. On December 9, 1997, the police closed in on Robinson and took him down with several other Popes. This brought a major blow to the suburban chapter and closed down Orland Hills operations.
In 1998, Sopron, Antusas and the 5 others involved were found guilty of the murders of the two teenage girls in 1995. Sopron, Antusas and Eric Anderson received life sentences while all the others just got harsh sentences. It is said by many, even by Insane Popes that Sopron is innocent and did not give the orders. Starting in 1998 the APs began to crumble at a faster rate and all operations ceased to exist later in the year.
In 1999, the APs began to get back together for plans to put the organization back together and the talks escalated by the year 2000 but soon fizzled out in 2001 then members went back to either being Twelfth Street Players from 62nd or they returned to the IPN.
In recent developments, Matthew Sopron was exonerated of the murder charges of Carrie Hoval and Helena Martin and has just been released from prison in December 2018 after testimony from Eric Anderson and Bryan O’Shea later revealed they were coerced by Chicago police to admit that Matthew Sopron and Wayne Antusas where the ones that ordered the shooting. Bryan O’Shea was the first to confess long ago that he was coerced at a young age but recently Brian Anderson came forward admitting that Matt Sopron did not order the shooting and was not even aware. Chicago police were eager to convict the leadership of the Almighty Popes and even provided Bigeck and O’Shea with alcohol and even let them watch pornography at the police station as long as they pinned everything on the leadership of the Popes. This was a horrible injustice; even though Sopron was the leader of the Popes he did not deserve this punishment for this crime. Wayne Antusas still sits in prison and should be released as well.
It is important to understand that just because a man leads a gang doesn’t automatically make him guilty of all the gangs’ crimes. Sometimes gang members do things on their own that normally violate the moral code of the gang. This is exactly what happened in 1995 when those two girls were killed. The APs that did it acted on their own against Matt and Wayne’s wishes and it led those men to lose over 20 years of their lives when they more than likely would have eventually retired from the gang life and became legit citizens on their own but an overzealous prosecution team locked them up instead.
Please send in some 1990s repping pics and graffiti pics so they can be posted!