TEEN COP KILLER PLEADS GUILTY
The public execution of CHP officer THOMAS STEINER by a POMONA 12th gangster, VALENTINO ARENAS, has become one of those events you can point to, shake your head and grumble, "Look how bad things have gotten." It's had a similar, though more muted impact that the infamous STEPHANIE KUHEN "wrong way" killing in 1995 in Highland Park. That one even got the attention of PRESIDENT CLINTON and prompted him to try to put an extra 100,000 cops on the nation's streets. The tenth anniversary of the Kuhen killing is coming up next year and it would be an interesting idea for one of LA's major media outlets to revisit that crime and check out the changes that have happened in that neighborhood in the last ten years. And there have been a lot.
Cop killing isn't new. Criminals have been shooting and killing cops for generations and it probably reached its zenith during the age of the Hudson Terraplane and the Tommy gun -- the two pieces of equipment favored by the likes of the Barrow gang, Dillinger and assorted rum runners and mobsters.
The two things that make cop killing different in the modern world are the age of the shooter and the motivation. In the era before inter-jurisdictional radio nets like CLEMARS and helicopters, you didn't earn stripes by killing a cop. You earned stripes the old fashioned way, by having the balls to rob banks where guards could shoot back. And you stuck up stores at a time when every grocery clerk had a sawed-off 12 gauge behind the counter. In some parts of the country, as we saw last week, the clerks still shoot back. One of the reasons for the popularity of franchised gas station and grocery stores as targets for robbery is that the franchisee is forbidden by contract to arm the clerks. It's a basically a written guarantee to criminals that the victim will be unarmed and helpless.
The 16-year-old who executed Officer Steiner outside the Pomona Court House admitted to LE that he shot Steiner to earn stripes from P12. It may have impressed the pee wees and tinys in the neighborhood, but the veteranos are not pleased. It was a bullshit shooting that had nothing to do with business. And it's now drawn the sort of heat that can make business a lot harder to conduct. That's the irony in this case. Instead of elevating his status, this young shooter will forever be stigmatized as a wild hot head by the very people he tried to impress. Hot heads are bad for the organization and many have been put on the lista, even after years of loyal service. Arenas may not even be useful for carrying out prison hits or any sort of high level work. After all, he rolled over and spilled his water the minute he was taken into custody. In short, an unreliable soldado who may not even be eligible for schooling. An outcast even among criminals.
Arenas pleaded guilty on December 6 and will be sentenced in January. Because of his age, he's not eligible for the death penalty.