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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.

The Wolf Pack Mentality

Like wolves, gang members travel in packs and pounce.

March 09, 2010  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

I threw one of the charging gang members back into the crowd, and in the darkness I felt someone trying to grab my holstered revolver. I spun to my right and shielded my weapon. It suddenly occurred to me that somebody might be killed in this altercation, as another punch glanced off my head.

My power-lifter partner Vetrovec lifted a gang member over his head and then tossed him over the cliff. Ahhhhhh! The homeboy screamed as he fell three stories. Vetrovec tossed a second gang member over the cliff and the frenzied attack broke. I don't know if it was this or the multiple radio car headlights and flashing overheads driving through the park towards us that contributed to the turn in the tide of the battle, but the gang members began running away into the darkness in every direction.

Fortunately, the bushes and a soft dirt slope at the cliff bottom broke the three story fall of the gang members, and nobody got seriously hurt. We arrested and booked four or five of the Geraghty gang members who got caught. But it was a call for assistance that we responded to, and the park patrol officers were certainly grateful.

Rather than being an incident that the gang members would complain about, the Geraghty gang would often bring the fight up in later contacts, "Remember when we jumped those park patrol officers? And Vetrovec threw those homeboys off the cliff!" They would joke about the now infamous fight, but they were not joking that night.

Now join me in the Way Back Machine for an incident that occurred to me as a kid (in 1961). While walking home from Bunche Junior High School with my nerd best friend Bernard, a group of African-American gang kids I recognized from Bunche ran up behind us. Although they must have recognized that we were from the same neighborhood, we were not gang members.

They surrounded us. The "leader" wore a single black leather glove and he was a head shorter than the other three, he accused me of calling his brother the "N" word. The others began saying "yeah," "yeah!" and working themselves up for the attack. The one gloved gangster landed the first blow on the left side of my jaw. But this was not my first fight; I grabbed him and punched him hard in the eye (blind wolves don't fight well). Bernard did not fight back; he fell to the ground, so the others concentrated on me. I held onto the one-gloved gangster and took him to the ground. I made the one-gloved gang member pay for every punch I took. I straddled him and pounded his face. A blow from a wooden board and a kick to my left side took me off the gloved gangster, but the four attackers ran away.

Like wolves circling the lambs, both assaults began with a flanking maneuver. The less-than-largest wolf was the instigator. He tried to rally the other wolves with calls and verbal attacks before his initial assault. Both assaults ended when the victims did not go down easily and effectively fought back.

Remember that animal instincts are also working for you, the sheep dog. When you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and uneasy, when you get that little voice that says, "uh, oh," stop and assess what is making your senses feel that way. The bond that you establish with your partner and the other sheep dogs is also a multiplying factor. Working as a team, your "whole is greater than the sum of its parts." When a team is in sync, they are a greater force than the sum of each one operating individually.

Use your peripheral vision to watch for flanking movements and movements in the shadows. Use your vehicle to create a barrier to thwart flanking movement; try to use street and vehicle lights to get the best illumination in the area. Look for eye contact with the instigator. He will "cock" or tense up just before initiating the attack. Use your voice to back them off and break up their rallying cries before the attack. The initial attack may be a diversion for another more effective attack (such as the attempt to grab my gun).

Gang members get their courage from drugs and booze, but even more so, they feed on a predatory pack mentality. Their demeanor changes; even the timid homeboy can be aggressive and dangerous when under the influence of the mob mentality. He may say and do things he would never do individually. This is another reason why gang accomplices and get away drivers must be charged as well as the gang shooters. Their participation encourages and supports this mob or pack mentality. Many violent crimes would not have been committed if not for the presence and encouragement of the other homeboys.

Sheep dogs recognize wolves and wolf packs; they understand how wolf packs hunt. Sheep dogs avoid being surrounded and call for help if they need it, and wolves recognize that the sheep dog is dangerous to them.

Go get 'em Fido!

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Comments (1)

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Jim Vetrovec @ 1/26/2011 2:58 PM

Richard, our sins have long shadows. You ought to tell them about the Christmas burgler.

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