Among the uncounted casualties of criminal street gangs, and the drug culture they perpetuate, are the non-gang family members who become the collateral victims of their lifestyles. Drug abuse, child abuse and child neglect are part of almost every gang family.
When these gang members drive by a residence and spray it with bullets they never stop to think that uninvolved children and the elderly are just as likely to be killed as any intended gang target. Rarely does the gang member consider that the gang retaliation, which might follow his shooting, might also endanger the residents of his own house who aren't gang affiliated.
This wanton disregard for others including the innocent children who must live in a gang household is like the twisted sickness that causes arsonists it start uncontrolled fires even when their own home and family might be consumed.
The city of Compton (Calif.) is a dangerous place, and the most dangerous area is called Willowbrook. This unincorporated county area of Compton is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. This section of Los Angeles spawned many infamous gangs. One of the worst, the Fruit Town Piru gang, derived its name from the streets in this section of Willowbrook. Streets called Plum, Peach and Cherry cross this tough gang neighborhood. Just north of this area is claimed by the Mob Piru gang where Death Row Records' former CEO Marion "Suge" Knight grew up.
I grew up in these neighborhoods too and volunteered to work patrol there. On one PM shift I was with my partner, Deputy Chuck Cortez, a seasoned veteran of Firestone Station and a man whose handcuffs never needed much lubrication because they were in constant use. We were following our usual pattern of stopping everything moving that looked like a gang member.
The trick was to go 10-15 (code for prisoner in custody) before we got swamped chasing the radio calls for domestic disturbances, loud parties, and burglar alarms. At the end of each deployment period, we compared our statistics with the other Compton units to see who made the most felony arrests, who took the most dope and guns. Losers bought the beer.
Suddenly, our radio interrupted our routine with a call of a nearly naked, drunk young man in the middle of the street in the Fruit Town gang area. This was usually a hint that we would encounter an individual high on Phencyclidine, known in this neighborhood as Angel Dust, Sherm or PCP.
Phencyclidine was commonly found in this area in an oily liquid form with a strong chemical smell and was consumed by smoking it on a Sherman Cigarette dipped in this oily liquid. This method often produced PCP overdoses. The user would shed his outer clothing, since the drug raised his temperature to 106 degrees or more and sent his heart rate up.
The user would then become delirious and combative and seemed to posses superhuman strength. I've seen PCP users break handcuffs, withstand numerous police baton strikes, and even absorb gunshot wounds with seeming immunity. As we rolled to the call, we got ready to fight that kind of PCP monster.
Anticipating this confrontation, the dispatcher also sent paramedics and fire units. The paramedics arrived first and were immediately attacked by the nearly naked young man. They requested police units to assist and two other sheriff's units arrived before we did. As we pulled up to the curb, both sheriff's units and the firemen were fighting the African-American version of the Incredible Hulk. Since I had originally been assigned the call, I tried to enter the fray but my partner held me back. He said, "Let them handle it."
Now this was not what I expected from my partner. With even a hint of probable cause, Chuck would have arrested the Pope without hesitation or remorse. I could see that a wicked plan was forming in his hook-and-book brain. Besides I'd been injured before in fights when too many deputies were trying to subdue the same wild suspect. So I watched and waited.