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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.

Gang Profile: Varrio Hawaiian Gardens

Los Angeles County's smallest city was known as a haven for a gang that trafficked drugs, resisted law enforcement, and waged a race war against African-Americans.

October 20, 2011  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

LASD Deputy Jerry Ortiz (left) and Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang member Jose Luis "Sepy" Orozco.
LASD Deputy Jerry Ortiz (left) and Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang member Jose Luis "Sepy" Orozco.

Hawaiian Gardens covers one square mile in southeast Los Angeles County, and carries the distinction as the smallest city in the county. About 14,300 residents live in a town incorporated in 1964. In the 1920s, the area was rural and the city took its name from a small refreshment stand decorated with palm fronds and bamboo that sold sandwiches and soft drinks spiked with moonshine during prohibition. The local gang, Varrio Hawaiian Gardens, traces its beginnings to the 1940s and Louis "Hero Buff" Flores; the founder of the Mexican Mafia was from the Hawaiian Gardens gang. So was Alex "Hondo" Lechuga.

Most of the city's income comes from a gambling casino that generates about $9.2 million a year. Los Angeles County Fire Department provides fire services to Hawaiian Gardens and contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police service.

When I worked this area, I found that the community seemed to be overly tolerant of the local Latino gangs and drug trafficking, and not so much with the police. I nicknamed Hawaiian Gardens "148 City" for the California Penal Code section for "Resisting or interfering with a peace officer in discharge of his duties." It was often the case when conducting a police investigation or making an arrest in this city that deputies would inevitably find it necessary to arrest one or two others who would intervene for the suspect and interfere with police business.

Hawaiian Gardens gang member Jose Luis Orozco used "Sepy," as his gang moniker. During the summer of 2005, he was 28, 5-foot-4-inches, and 150 pounds. The gang had adopted the cartoon character of the "Hawaiian Punch" man as their logo, and Sepy wore a tattoo of the character on his right arm. He also wore "LA" and "South Sider" tattoos on his chest and his clique name loquitos (little crazy ones) on his back. But the most telling tattoos were the devil horns on his forehead.

Sepy was a hardcore gang member with numerous juvenile and adult arrests for vehicle theft, car jacking, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, drug possession, felon in possession of a firearm, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, and several parole violations.

Two of my teenager sons were boxers in 2005 and worked out in the ring at Deputy Mike Young's gym. Deputy Jerry Ortiz sometimes sparred with them. Jerry was a great boxer and won many victories in state and regional events. He was a gold-medal winner at the World Police Games.

Deputy Jerry Ortiz joined the LASD in February of 1990 and had obtained a position as a gang investigator with the Operation Safe Streets (OSS) Unit. He was a family man devoted to his wife Chela and his two sons. His demeanor was friendly, and his smile was infectious. His commitment to service included being an usher at the church which he faithfully attended. He was everything that Sepy Orozco was not.

The city of Hawaiian Gardens was important to both men. Deputy Ortiz worked to make the city a safer place for its citizens and their families, and Sepy Orozco wanted it as exclusive turf of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang.

On June 20, an African American man was helping a friend fix up his home on Joliet Street. This was a dangerous thing to do. Varrio Hawaiian Gardens was a Sureño gang fiercely loyal to the Mexican Mafia, and the Mafia was in a racial war against Blacks. Varrio Hawaiian Gardens (HG) was also known as the "Hate Gang" because of the hate crimes it had committed against African Americans.

The African American man would later testify in court that a man with horns tattooed on his head approached him and offered to sell him drugs. When the victim refused, the horned man later identified as Orozco pulled a handgun. The victim tried to block Sepy Orozco's arm as the first bullet narrowly missed the victim's head. Orozco continued to fire the weapon, striking the victim in the shoulder and the buttocks as the victim ran away. 

The OSS Gang Unit had obtained a positive identification of the suspect with horns tattooed on his head from a photo line-up shown to the victim. Now they began their search for Sepy Orozco to arrest him for the shooting.

Four days later at about 3 p.m., Deputy Jerry Ortiz was driving through Hawaiian Gardens on his way to deliver some paper work when he spotted Orozco. As Deputy Ortiz tried to stop the gang member, Orozco ran down a narrow alley toward a familiar apartment complex in the 12200 block of East 223rd St. This was the same group of apartments where Sepy had been arrested a year earlier.

Both the apartment complex and many of the people who lived there were very familiar to the experienced Deputy. As Deputy Ortiz waited for other deputies to arrive, he noticed one of the apartment doors was standing open. Ortiz knew this location and walked up to the open door and called to a female resident.

A few moments earlier, Sepy Orozco had also noticed the open door. Before Ortiz arrived, he ran inside the apartment and hid behind the open door. As the deputy approached Sepy's hiding place, the gang member shot Deputy Ortiz in the head at close range.

The newspaper of the Varrio, gang graffiti on the walls, boasted of the murder of the OSS gang deputy. "F-K the COPS 187," "F-K PIGS 187," and "Rest in Piz Ortiz" covered the walls in the area. The Hawaiian Garden homeboys even wrote the rap song about the incident. Here's an excerpt:

Another cop gone, another cop gone, is all I'm hearing—another cop gone.
Is like a MF countdown, armed and dangerous, we just go mutherfukn balls out.
Just show that we roll, and how the southeast rides,
committing all these muthafkn crimes, all at one time.

Sepy Orozco was eventually captured and convicted for the murder of Deputy Ortiz. I testified in the case. Today, Jose Louis Orozco sits on death row in San Quentin State Prison, awaiting his execution. That will never bring back what we have lost—one good gang cop.

Tags: Gang Intelligence, Surenos

Comments (24)

Displaying 1 - 24 of 24

Alberto Martinez,III @ 10/21/2011 2:52 PM

This Gangbanger will never roam the the streets again and a Warning to anyone else if u Kill or Assault a Cop we will fid you !

hmmmm @ 10/25/2011 1:10 AM

story seems biased.

Rick @ 10/28/2011 8:56 AM

Support more liberal CCW laws in CA so citizens can defend themselves from thugs like these. After citizens defend themselves and shoot a few thugs, crime will start going down and make a CA cops life a little easier.

roger jimenez @ 10/28/2011 4:18 PM

Ricky agree...supports the ccw in ca.....

ray @ 11/7/2011 10:55 AM

i am a resident of Hawaiian Gardens for 40 years and i can honestly tell you that i knew this person and he was a loose cannon and had to be stopped. Before he did what he did, word on the street was that sepy was getting out of control and was not listening to anyone who told him otherwise. So he was going to be taken care of.Because everyone was afraid he was going to do something stupid.Before he could be found,it was to late.Let me explain something, what he did was wrong and goes against the rules on the street.You dont kill a cop,it is suicide.He worked on his own and deserves to be where he is at.I feel bad for the deputies family.Now with that said,dont believe what the media and newspaper write.They dont tell the whole truth.Deputy Ortiz was no angel as they portrait him to be.What they dont tell you is how he and the person who lived at that residence had a connection.But besides that they dont tell you how they terrorized the city ,not the gang.And a lot of these guys did not deserve the sentences they received.What really happened in this city was wrong and will never be the happy city it used to be.

John Meoff @ 11/19/2011 1:58 PM

I got a call from an SRO today from a Chicago High school, he seized a gang hat off a kid he thought was a GD gang member; the hat had the word "C.H.U.C.H." airbrushed on the visor, and the kids in the neighborhood (Moes mostly gave the information) all complained about the hat to the SRO, who seized it, and wrote up the kid for violating gang attire at the school; apparently "C.H.U.C.H." in Chicago means "Cash Heavy Under Chairman Hoover", and is an expression used by GD gang members to brag that they are making a lot of money under the leadership of of their King, Larry, Chairman Hoover.

Lara @ 5/9/2012 2:20 AM

I grew up with Sepy ever since first grade at hawaiian elementry with miss Buenrostro up intill he dropped out wich was somewhere after seventh or eight grade and personally he was a cool guy I never had any problems with him and my pesonal opinion is that this could have been me or any other of my friends from elementry school I think that drug use is a key factor in how a regular everyday person goes to become a killer and takes that black narrow road in life we all make our choices but it can be easier if parents went back to being hardcore showing the kids morals values and just be more involved in the childs life and know there ways especially when you grow up in a city like Hawaiian Gardens

John @ 1/23/2013 11:39 AM

I was strung out on heroin and got to know Sepy I once owed him some money and was warned by several people that he would kill me over a dollar and that 13 people were killed by him. The night before he shot the officer I saw him at boxers I went to go buy heroin he was there smoking meth and totally spun. Had a evil look in his eyes

Gnosis2078 @ 1/23/2013 3:00 PM

It must be hard to live there and rise above. Moving would be a good idea. Even if you just go 200 miles and get a job at Subway. From a good area you will see new possibilities. Good area, good people = good future.
The move takes courage and belief in yourself but you will have a better life.

x-skizo frantic @ 3/14/2013 10:18 PM

I had just moved out of HG when all this happened. I was loked out, pregnant & enthralled with gang life...but then I met Jesus, not some cardboard, religious, go to church 2x a year out of guilt Jesus... I MET THE JESUS THAT GOD SENT to live a perfect life & die a perfect death, my Lord who did for me what I couldn't do for myself. Ive been clean today 8yrs! I pray for the homies I left behind, that they will find the Lord as I have & put down the pukie packed with clavo, that stuff is the devils playground. I love Hawaiian Gardens & I always will, it's where I grew up & where I got my real education. God bless you Paya, I'm praying for you. Much love!

Bob @ 4/9/2013 1:51 AM

I moved to hg 2 years ago its fucking awesome there's always some cool shit going on. There's a helicopter flyng around right now in my neighborhood lookn for someone. It's always like the grand theft auto video game out here and I love it. The only problem is there's too many police and they waste too much tax payer dollars on these helicopters that they fly non stop. The police need to give up and worry about a different town, hg is a lost cause.

Juan @ 6/22/2013 10:00 PM

I born in artesia and lived my baby years in this city, my pops being an ex gangster from South Central wasnt comfortable living in Hawaiian Gardens... gangsters breaking in the garage, pulling a gun out on my mom mistaking her for someone else... I ended up being raised in Orange County dealing with wannabes... Anyways I not a druggie, gangster, or a mess up and maybe its than to losing our home here. Idk what I would have become living here with the mentality I had but I'm glad that's not me. My pops knew this dude and I think they were cool. I swinged by to handball today and not sure how the city's like but I did witness two older gang looking dudes in a car starring at me.. not sure if they would send trouble towards me since I have no knowledge of how the cities like these days, would anyone tell me what's up?

Juan @ 6/22/2013 10:07 PM

P.s. what ray said was right^^^ my dad knew this cop too and he did say he was corrupted. Its never good to waste a life but according to my pops stories he was no angel. But that's how some LAPD cops are.

Ed @ 6/30/2013 7:20 PM

I lived in HG from 79-94 maybe 93 not to sure. I went to Killingsworth Junior High when Sepy was there. He was a little awkward, but I didn't sense anything really evil in him maybe just misunderstood. He would hang out by drinking faucets and Carrom Boards. Usually the nerdy kids or less athletic kids would hang out there as well. Sepy came across kinda nerdy to me, he just had this rough exterior with the saggy clothing and shaved head. He would always try to twist mine and others nipples. I would do it back to him, and he liked it. Sepy was kind of a fruity dude maybe even a closet homosexual. I still can't believe the cop approached that door without his gun drawn and with backup. You can't fuck around when it comes to dealing with killers and thugs. Sucks for his family they are always the ones to get hurt. HG has some crazy memories for me, and my family and friends. Are there still gang bangers there?

cain/caron @ 8/30/2013 1:48 AM

my family was raised on cains corner, 223rd/juan. i can say hawaiian gardens made my family the way it is to this day. but all of us that grew up in HG will tell you that you did what you did regardless of the the varrio or code. the drugs messed you up and some people thought they could take on what they couldnt and are now paying the price

manuel @ 10/17/2013 5:55 PM

I lived in The Gardenz in the early 70's,on Clarksdale & 223rd. Grandma Martha's pad was my hangout. I was a kid & never felt safer anywhere in my life. I will always remember that hood & all the good;Cabrerra Market,the go cart trac, the indoor swap meet,& my friendsw at Santa Fe over on Norwalk with them bomb ass burritos! I am & always be HG in my heart because that's where I got my start in life. I now live all over the country & enjoy all people & experiences, but will never forget my humble beginnings in the barrio. I still have peeps from there.

manny-mo @ 10/17/2013 6:14 PM

I lived in the Gardenz in the early 70's. Everyone looked out for each other. We had astrong community & love. Cabrerra Market, Santa FE on Norwalk, the old gocarts & the indoor swap meet. I carry alot of the Gardenz with mke to this day.

stacyann @ 1/23/2014 8:14 PM

I was raised in Hawaiian Gardens all my life. Both my parents and my whole fam lives there, the city has its bad and its good. When I was a kid going to hawaiian elementary to fedde middle school the cops who would always roam around the streets were all rude and mean to everyone in the nieghborhood. Yes some cops are very corrupt I know that because I was in the explorers police academy for young adults and I would see how they were before hitting the streets, seeing all that with my eyes I myself quit the academy for those purposes. Hawaiian gardens treated me perfect and so as well for my family. They have great activities for children too and their parade is always great

neto loko @ 1/29/2014 5:54 PM

My name is Ernest, I use to live in HG during the early 80's, went to Killingsworth, also Lakewood.Use to hang out with Cyco Fiji and the Esparza brothers, does anyone out there know Louie or Sergio ?

Norwalquero @ 2/11/2014 10:56 AM

Can't believe these clowns who spout off "Oh yeah....Deputy Ortiz was corrupt!" What the hell do you know about it? Do you know someone innocent that Deputy Ortiz framed for a crime? Did you witness Deputy Ortiz take a payment from a VHG shotcaller? Do you have video footage of Deputy Ortiz accepting sexual favors in exchange for leniency? Was Deputy Ortiz under investigation by Internal Affairs for some ethics violations? It is beyond sad that this man who, by all credible accounts, was a good cop and devoted family man would be slandered after his murder by a bunch of morons. Zeppy deserves to rest in piss. Not Deputy Ortiz.

duziteazy @ 4/4/2014 12:38 AM

fuck chongoz garage hoes. Lived in this miserable city for years. These HeadGivers think they are all that because no one wants to fuck with them. Kids with no life and poor parental guidance, the 80s and 90s are over! wake up and smell the coffee fuckers! If this was Long Beach these pussies be dead like Lkongos. EBK all day. Police needs to step up their job here. Please drive them out!

VHGRX3 @ 7/23/2014 11:46 AM

Fuck all the enemiGaz , tHis HxTE GxNG stupeh 187 on a bitch ass piG !!

Horts St @ 7/24/2014 9:38 AM

You wont last In the Gardens for shit, so call I used live there. I wonder why you left you were a Bitch that's why.

ADOLFO PEREZ @ 10/10/2014 4:17 PM


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