Nothing plays on TV like a car chase. In the Los Angeles area, they will interrupt anything short of the Super Bowl to show a police vehicle pursuit on television.

But having experienced many vehicle and foot pursuits over my 33 years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, I must tell you that I think that they are very dangerous to the suspect, the police, and the citizens who happen to be anywhere nearby. They may look like fun, but to the parties involved they are extremely stressful and often life threatening. Just listen to any audio tape of almost any cop's pursuit and you will hear the stress and the adrenaline. Commonly such chases end with a crash, a foot pursuit, or a shooting.

Last week a police vehicle pursuit and foot pursuit east of Los Angeles ended with a kicking and that kick was recorded by a TV news copter covering the chase.

Before we hang this El Monte officer and then give him a fair trial, remember that the "all seeing eye" in the sky may not have seen everything the officer saw from his position in the backyard. Also remember that the suspect, who turned out to be a parolee, endangered countless lives in that wild pursuit, fled arrest, was possibly armed, and was possibly not compliant. Oh, and he is clearly a member of a very violent gang.

Photos of the suspect Richard Rodriguez show a two-inch-high tattoo of "EMF" on his face under his lower lip and a large "Flores" tattooed across his neck. (I'll bet those tattoos hurt more than that alleged kick.) "EMF" stands for the largest of the dozen or so El Monte gangs, El Monte Flores.

Long ago there was only one gang in El Monte, and it was called El Monte. When I was a teenager in the mid-1960s, many Los Angeles teens would drive to the El Monte American Legion Stadium to see rock 'n' roll shows emceed by radio celebrities like Huggy Boy or Wolfman Jack. We also attended dances there that were played by live bands. It was a fun place.

But danger always lurked in the huge parking lot or the nearby hamburger stands where the El Monte gang members prowled. 

The original group was named after a migratory farm worker's camp called Hick's Camp. This became El Monte Hicks. Another clique began on land owned by a man named Hayes. This became El Monte Hayes. But the largest clique formed around a nursery that specialized in growing flowers in south El Monte. The Spanish word for flowers is flores, so that clique became known as El Monte Flores. That clique is now a gang of more than 400 members. This gang loved to fight.  

Several of El Monte Flores more prominent members frequented the East L.A. area when I worked there. They were always a good stop because they were always up to no good in someone else's' neighborhood. Drug dealing primarily in heroin was their means of support, so they frequented the more hard core gang and trafficking areas.

Working the area, I soon formed a close relationship with El Monte PD gang detective Marty Penny. He was a tireless investigator with great neighborhood informants. El Monte PD had an effective gang suppression unit. In 2006, it received the James Q. Wilson Award for "Excellence in Community Policing." In addition the city provided a tattoo removal program and a job placement program for gang members who wished to leave the lifestyle.

Many El Monte Flores gang members were associated with or members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Albert "Blackie" Amaya, Clark "Boxer" Duran, Jose "Jo Jo" Perea, Ricardo "Danger" Valdivia, and Anthony "Cheya" or "Dido" Moreno, just to name a few.
Twenty-year Mexican Mafia veteran Raymond "Huero Shy" Shryock was from the Artesia gang, but his wife Bunny and children lived in El Monte.

Mexican Mafia "Drop Out" Anthony "Dido" Moreno was living near his El Monte home. Moreno had a death sentence on his head ordered by the gang. Huero Shy recruited a new Mexican Mafia member from the El Monte Flores gang, Luis "Pelon" Maciel, to carry out the hit.

Maciel used street soldiers from the rival Sangra Gang to hit the residence on Maxson Street. Anxious to impress the Mafia, the shooters killed not only Moreno and his associate, but a mother and her five-year-old daughter and six-month-old son. The shooters were caught and, along with El Monte Mexican Mafia member Maciel, they were convicted and sentenced to death.

El Monte Flores is a hardcore Hispanic street gang. It is part of the Sureño (Southern California) alliance and fiercely loyal to the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Its members have a long history of gang assaults, including many against law enforcement.

If you come in contact with these guys, you will need all of your best police skills to deal with them. Be very officer safety conscience when you are in contact with "The Flowers."

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Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

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

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

View Bio