Thursday, December 09, 2004

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.

Monday, December 06, 2004

It seems that we periodically have to cover this issue whether we want to or not. Like going to the dentist, it seems unavoidable. The topic in question is this: Do the brothers ever give anybody a pass to leave the Mob without any repercussions?

This post is prompted by a series of emails from curious individuals and by someone who seems to have some rather privileged knowledge. For the sake of protecting identities I'm quoting from the email but snipping out self-identifiers. This is the emailer's quote.

"Wally, again, you made the mistake about "Conejo's" book, "Blood In, Blood Out." This book has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. [text snipped here]. I agree that if one is to buy into the Blood In Blood Out doctrine, then those "preachers" from Victory Outreach would be dead. Could it be that there is something out there a foot that "we" do not have the real story as yet?"

First off, I don't recall saying that ART "CONEJO" BLAJOS' book, BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT ever had the slightest resemblance to the movie -- BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: BOUND BY HONOR. It was originally released with that title but the current video boxes put BOUND BY HONOR up top and use B.I.B.O. as the sub. You can rent the movie anywhere. Getting a copy of Blajos' book to do your own comparison, on the other hand, will set you back some serious money. It's been out of print for years and even Amazon can't seem to find used copies.

To begin with, let's turn our textbooks to the Eme commandments. As outlined in a variety of sources, including unpublished manuscripts of dropouts, court testimony of snitches, confidential informants and from LE gang intelligence here's the law of the Black Hand as laid out by HUERO BUFF FLORES, EDDIE LOERA, JESUS PEDROSA, ALEJANDRO LECHUGA and others back in 1957. I paraphrase the original wording.

• To join, you have to be sponsored by an active member.
• You have to be approved by at least three active members. In the old days, all members in a prison had to vote you in. Now with over 600 members all over the state, the requirement is down to three.
• The only way out of the Eme is death.
• The Eme comes first, before family and friends.
• No homosexual activity. Ever. Anyplace, anytime. No excuses.
• No politicking. That means you don't undermine another brother's operations or badmouth him to other brothers or the outside.
• Admitting the existence of the Eme to law enforcement or anyone not a member is punishable by death. Admitting membership is on a need to know basis. Your homies in the neighborhood, for instance.
• Don't show fear or weakness.
• Orders from brothers have to be obeyed regardless of the personal risk to the person being ordered. That means if you're in a position to hit somebody that the brothers want hit, failure to act will demonstrate weakness and violate the above law.
• If a member goes bad, it will reflect badly on his sponsor. That means the sponsor will have to clean up the books himself. Or else.

There are other regulations regarding drug addiction, paperwork, ethnic purity and others, but these are the important ones.

With regard to Art Blajos' book, he violates all the big ones. He admits to having been made. He admits the existence of the organization to the world. By his own admission, he failed to carry out a hit on direct orders. And, of course, he walked away quite alive and well.

At the end of his book, Blajos tells the tale of being redeemed by Jesus and by the counseling of Victory Outreach pastors. While on the road to becoming a pastor himself, Blajos was working at a car wash when a big Cadillac he recognized pulled up and a window rolled down. He knew the people inside and he was ready to take a bullet. But nothing happened. The car rolled off without a word. A week later he got another visit and this time the caller said, "Be for real." Blajos concluded that the Eme gave him a pass and would not greenlight him unless his conversion proved not to be genuine. Blajos doesn't specify what year this happened, but the book was published in 1996. So we assume it was a few years before that.

By 1995, the LOS ANGELES METROPOLITAN TASK FORCE ON VIOLENT CRIME was in full operation. ERNIE CASTRO, a full-blown carnal, had flipped and was wearing a wire. Shot callers were meeting regularly in a motel room which was wired for video and sound. At one of these motel meetings, RANDY "COWBOY" THERRIEN was discussing the status of DONALD "BIG D" GARCIA with ALEX "PEE WEE" AGUIRRE, CASTRO and other brothers. Garcia was an Eme member who, by his own admission in an LA TIMES article, failed to complete an order to hit another inmate while in jail. Like Blajos, Garcia dropped out and found god. Therrien said this on tape about Garcia's conversion: "People think that's the back door out of the Eme. There ain't no back door. You guys turn on us, pick up the Bible, I'm going to look for you." At the same meeting, a vote was taken to kill Garcia. Interestingly, no one was ordered to do the hit. The only opinion one can form about this is that it was a low priority greenlight, apparently to be fulfilled if and when the opportunity arose. Garcia remains unmolested and free to preach.

Other dropouts don't get anything like a pass. Even if they haven't debriefed and just want out, the greenlight goes on and they become free-fire zones.

So on one side of the equation you've got dropouts who apparently have a pass because of their religion. On the other, you've got the commandments according to HUERO BUFF FLORES, co-founder of the brotherhood.

Looking at both sides of this, you can form your own opinion about the back door out of the brotherhood. But there are a few things to think about while formulating an opinion. If there is a back door then the Commandments need to be rewritten. Or at least footnoted. Being in for life is a powerful tool for maintaining commitment and cohesion. Modifying it makes the organization appear somewhat less than totally serious about what it demands from its members.

If there is no back door, then there may be other factors in play that, as my reader says, "we do not have the real story as yet."
Fightin' words exchanged between rival neighborhoods in chat rooms is nothing new. It's been happening since the beginning of the net. But we now have the first documented case of hostile internet words leading to a homicide. At least this is the first we know of.

Two LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA neighborhoods, SUR 13 and MAKIN LIFE KRAZY (MLK), have been beefing in chat rooms for some time. On November 29, an SUV with SUR 13 homies and an 18th STREET soldado rolled up on MLKs and cut loose. An MLK homie, RICARDO "SILENT" ANDRES, who was all of 14 years old, died from 9mm rounds in the head and chest. A 9-year-old and a 17-year-old were wounded but will survive. Both backed up MLK. Although how much backup a 9-year-old can provide is questionable. The lone shooter was 23-year-old MIGUEL LEMU-FLORES, the 18th Streeter. He's now in the wind.

To the tutored eye, MLK sounds more like a tagging crew than a full-on neighborhood, but then again, we don't know all that much about the evolving neighborhood culture on the other side of the continent.