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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

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 (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

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 !

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

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.

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

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