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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.
Gangs

A Day in the Life of a Gang Member

A small group of gangbangers can wreak a massive amount of mayhem in just a few hours.

May 14, 2008  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

On a warm California fall evening, excited football fans streamed out of a High School stadium. Young people walked in small groups and gathered at street corners talking and laughing as they waited for an opening in the long lines of cars. They walked in the darkness and under the street lights unaware that they were in danger as they made their way home or to the local hamburger stand. The Compton football team celebrated another victory on its way to the CIF Championships. But in the warm fall darkness a blue Chevy Impala stalked the fans like a cold-blooded predatory shark.

Suddenly, a night of fun became a night of terror as multiple muzzle flashes lit the night from the interior of the blue Impala. Bang! Bang! Bang! “Crip!” Followed by: Bang! Bang! “Palm ‘n Oak!” echoed in the crowded streets. Streaking sparks marked the bullet strikes as they ricocheted off the streets and sidewalks. The crowd ran in panic in all directions from the sounds of the gun fire. Some victims fell wounded. But inside the blue Impala the occupants were laughing. They got off a few more rounds and careened away.

A Compton Police radio broadcast went out describing the suspect vehicle and its last known direction. But the suspects could only be described as several African American males, possibly from the Lynwood Palm and Oak Street Crips.

The occupants of the stolen blue Chevy Impala were six juvenile Crip gang members. Laughing and joking with each other, several of them claimed credit for wounding the football fans. They jokingly argued who shot the most and who was the most accurate. “CRRRIP!” they shouted as they continued to flash their guns at passing vehicles.

Lil’ June Bug (16) was driving and he suddenly blurted out, “we need some gas, homies.” Lil’ Dee (15) in the middle and G-Dog (17) sitting shotgun laughed some more as black-and-white police cars passed them in the opposite direction rushing toward Compton Stadium. Two other Crips sat in the rear seat with Salty Dog (16) crowded into the right rear seat. Salty was the newest member of the gang and he was not laughing, he was worried.

Lil’ June Bug suddenly turned across the double yellow lines and the opposing traffic into a discount gas station. A small silver Toyota with a few more Crips, which had been following behind them, missed the turn into the gas station driveway, slowed, and was in the process of making a U-turn when the driver saw an L.A. Sheriff’s patrol car pulling in behind the blue Impala.

Not yet seeing the Sheriff’s car, G-Dog, Dee, and the other two Crips in the back seat were getting out of the Impala. They had decided not to buy gas, but to “Jack” another car at the pump who’s driver had already filled up. Illuminated by the flashing patrol car lights and spotlights they turned to look into the barrel of an Ithaca model 37, 12-gauge shotgun. “Freeze!” the deputy shouted.

The six juveniles were arrested and the vehicle impounded. Four freshly fired handguns were found in and around the car along with expended brass identified with the four guns. The six Palm and Oak Street Crips were transported and booked at Lynwood Sheriff’s Station, and then I was called. I was the on-call Operation Safe Streets (OSS) gang detective, and this gang was one of the most violent gangs in the area.

It was late in the evening when I arrived to interview the six Crips and write the Juvenile Detention Petitions. The savvy “night car” station detectives had separated and isolated the suspects so they could not concoct a story together.

The suspects gave us six separate confessions. The only significant facts they differed in were who actually fired the handguns. After the required juvenile Miranda waiver, I said something like, “What kind of a day did you have? Tell me how your morning began.”

Salty Dog woke up late for school. His mother scolded him and hurried him through a breakfast of cold cereal. She was still yelling at him as he walked out the door. “You ain’t never gonna amount to anything, just like your daddy,” she said. He walked down the street a block or two before he saw G-Dog and Lil’ June Bug smoking a joint on the corner. G-Dog had been expelled from school and was scheduled to register in a continuation program, but he never did. Lil’ June Bug was “buggy” from too much PCP “Sherm” smoking in the past. Salty had only met them a week or so ago after he had moved into the neighborhood with his mom. He had been “jumped in” to the Palm and Oak Street Crips gang earlier that week after school. Not all the homies really knew him yet, and some openly displayed hostility toward him.

There was no official rank structure in the Crips, but G-Dog was older and more experienced in the gang life having been arrested several times. He called himself an Original Gangster (OG) and held some de facto authority. You could never tell what Lil’ June Bug might do, but he was G-Dog’s crime partner and sidekick.

They shared the joint with Salty as they walked with him toward the school. A small group of Crips stood on the corner across the street from the school drinking malt liquor and smoking marijuana. The crowd greeted the three with jokes and hand slaps. They were now a group of nine or 10. This unity, the booze, and the pot gave them the feeling of bravado. They decided to ditch school and just go “Cripping.”

As they walked generally westward, they incited and encouraged each other, daring their homeboys to do something crazy. The gang walked boldly through the Lindberg Elementary School toward the west side of the playground. They had previously established a hang out among some shrubs and trees on the perimeter near the street. They insulted and harassed a few passing pedestrians and chased a young Hispanic boy a short distance.

Someone eventually called the school security and the school police arrived. “Get your asses out of there!” yelled one of the school police officers over the car loud speaker. .”F__k you!” the Crips yelled back. The school police officer warned, “If you don’t leave, we will call the Sheriffs.”
Unknown to the school police, several of the Crips hidden by the shrubbery pulled out their “Roscoes” and threatened to “bust caps” on the cops. But the school police were a little too far away and the Sheriff’s deputies could be a problem.

Just to spite the school police, the Crips began walking back eastward across the school yard. Continuing east they passed a duplex apartment on a residential street just a few houses from the Elementary School. The screen door was locked but the wooden front door was open. Inside the duplex a female Hispanic and her two small children watched the loud talking crowd with some fear.

Without any discussion or planning, G-Dog pulled the duplex screen door open and Lil’ June Bug and Lil’ Dee rushed inside. They beat the screaming woman to the floor and threatened her with a pistol. Another Crip dumped out the baby’s diaper bag and several of the invading Crips used baby diapers, towels, a pair of women’s panties, and a small toddler’s dress to cover their faces.

Several Crips then ripped through the woman’s purse and took her cash, credit cars, and keys. One of the Crips placed the diaper bag over the woman’s head and another hiked up her dress and pulled off her underwear. Two or three of the Crips began raping her but she continued to struggle and scream. G-Dog intervened by sticking his pistol in the victim’s groin area and pulling the trigger. Bang! The group then ran away discarding their expedient face masks as they ran.

As they slowed down and began walking again they laughed at how silly the Palm and Oak Crips looked wearing masks of white diapers, pink panties, and a red toddler’s dress. Again they began to incite and dare each other to do something else crazy. Salty Dog felt as if this was especially directed toward him.

G-Dog asked Salty, “Were you scarred?” Salty denied it. G-Dog produced another pistol, a small, cheap .25 caliber semi-auto. He chambered a round and handed it to Salty Dog. “Are you really down for this neighborhood? Crip do or die? Straight up gangster?” he asked looking straight into Salty’s eyes. Salty said that he was “down.” G-Dog pointed at a figure sitting in a parked car a few yards ahead and said, “Then go kill that man!”

Salty Dog took the pistol and slowly walked up to back of the parked car. Inside an elderly black man sat listening to a radio program on his car radio. Salty looked back to see his homies making hand gestures to indicate that he should shoot the innocent man. He raised the gun, but he could not find the nerve to pull the trigger. He walked back to G-Dog and the homeboys and told them, “I ain’t going to shoot no old black man.”

As they continued walking they came upon a Hispanic man mowing his front lawn. Again G-Dog and the homeboys razed and taunted Salty to shoot the innocent man. Finally after several minutes of harassment he approached the unsuspecting Hispanic man and pointed the .25 pistol at him. Click! Although he had pulled the trigger, the pistol had failed to fire. He returned to G-Dog and the laughing homeboys. G-Dog said that it was only a test for a new homeboy, and the pistol never worked.

Apparently unconcerned about witnesses or the police, they continued walking like a mob down the middle of the street. They then walked past a construction site. A small tractor was parked on the site, and Lil’ June Bug jumped up on to the tractor driver’s seat. Encouraged by his homeboys he searched and found the tractor keys and started up the beast. Someone yelled, “Hey You Kids, Get Off that Tractor!” It was the construction workers. Lil’ June Bug jumped down and all the Crips began running away again. They fired a few stray rounds at the construction crew as they fled.

The Crips stopped for a few moments to smoke a few joints. They talked about going out a little further in their Crip criminal odyssey. They needed a car. So two or three of their group left to find a car they could “borrow.”

Salty, G-Dog, Lil’ Dee, Lil’ June Bug and two others walked into a Mom and Pop liquor store. As G-Dog distracted the Iranian store clerk, the others grabbed beer and chips and ran out of the store. The owner ran out in pursuit. He was armed with a pistol but withheld his fire for fear of hitting an innocent party. This happened often in this neighborhood, and he knew that the Crips were probably armed, too. It was only beer and not worth a life. He gave up the chase.

The Crips found an alley and spent some time drinking their stolen booty and crossing out rival gang graffiti. Lil’ June Bug jumped over a fence into a back yard and stole a little kid’s motocross bicycle. The others ran after Juney on the bike for a couple of blocks before he abandoned the bike.

The Crips saw a male Hispanic in his 40s getting into his blue Chevy Impala parked at the curb in front of them. G-Dog gave Salty another pistol telling him, “This one works.” They “Jacked” the male Hispanic and took his car and keys at gunpoint. The six Crips piled into the stolen Chevy yelling, “CRRRIPS!” And firing their guns into the air, shooting holes into the roof. A few minutes later they met up with their homeboys who had managed to borrow a silver Toyota from a relative.

Lil’ June Bug was driving the stolen Impala, and he pulled up next to the silver Toyota blocking traffic on the residential street in both directions. ”The Sheriff’s will be looking for this ride soon, lets get out of here,” he said.

Somebody in the other car remembered that Compton High School had a football game that night and rival Compton Crips would be in attendance. “Marvelous,” said G-Dog, “Let’s Ride!” The Impala slipped through the darkness down the Compton streets toward the Compton High football fans.

None of the victims died of the violence inflicted by these juvenile monsters, but it was not because their attackers hadn’t tried to kill them.

The six Crips mentioned in this article were eventually convicted for a number of the felonies described above. They received sentences averaging four years each. Most of them went on to become career criminals in their adult lives.

The media, and even our own administrators, tend to fix on one heinous gang incident rather than considering the multiple criminal felonies and misdemeanors the average gang member commits during the course of an average day. Look back over this “day in the life” description and count the serious violations. Normally many of the crimes gang members commit remain unreported or unconnected to the suspects by police investigators. Most of the time the gang members are not caught, and when they are, they are only charged with one or two of the major violations.

Notice that there seems to be no real rhyme or reason and certainly no organizational control of the gang’s criminal activity. Most of the victims were basically only targets of opportunity or collateral damage. But that means you are not immune from falling into these categories.
Go back and check out how many very dangerous officer safety situations occurred on this day with this one group. Notice also that very little thought was given by the gang members to the consequences of these acts, or the possible presence of witnesses or even the police.

As far as possible deterrents to this kind of gang activity are concerned, none of the highly touted deterrents seemed to be effective. As juveniles, and some as convicted felons, they were all legally prohibited from possessing firearms (or even fixed ammunition); none of them possessed a valid driver’s license. They lawfully were restricted from drinking alcohol, smoking pot, ditching school, or assaulting other people. However that did not stop them from committing rape, robbery, burglary, GTA, and attempted murder. All of these laws and rules meant nothing to these gang members. The lenient sentence they received for this dangerous crime spree wasn’t much of a deterrent either.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

chgriff77 @ 5/19/2008 10:44 AM

The"The lenient sentence they received for this dangerous crime spree wasn’t much of a deterrent either." is more true than most realize. CA prisons are not hard back breaking labor as the inmates would have you believe. It is more of an excercise in occupping a person's time while "seperated from society" which is supposed to be the real punishment. However, when prison is considered a break from the stresses of like (read responsibilty) its no wonder that crippin seems like the thing to do for those lames. Once prison or jail becomes deterent then maybe populations will go down gang violence on the street might go down and maybe just possibly maybe the lames that put these punks on pesdistals will also go away.

MaHai @ 5/30/2008 5:56 PM

I happen to live in China where the crime rate, especially for violent crimes, is very low. Can you say, "back breaking labor" "separated from society?" I think it is time for a wise entrepreneur to start a joint-venture with someone in China to build remote prisons to send our felons to. A win, win situation. Our felons get to enjoy labor, separated from society, the Chinese create a few more jobs, and our citizens are safe. Hey, the perps might even lose a little weight in the great Chinese Diet plan. (If you are Chinese, don't be offended, many westerners can't handle the richness of your cuisine).

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