"I kill you!"

Ahmed the Dead Terrorist

 

Comedian Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's puppet, Ahmed the Dead Terrorist, is a skeleton with a Middle Eastern accent and his punch line is to threaten, "I kill you!" But his threats only make the audience respond with laughter because while his words might be the quintessential statement expected of a terrorist, no one believes that Ahmed has the power or ability to actually carry out his threats.

This article is not an attempt to minimize any criminal threats made by gang members toward law enforcement or prosecutors. It is only written to balance the tendency to overreact to gang threats. Like the international terrorists that Ahmed represents, gang members make threats to terrorize their victims and disrupt the normal daily routine of the good guys. Some of these threats are serious because they are made with an intent and ability to carry them out and some are just the rhetoric of a dummy playing a part.

We all know an officer who is always giving the information that "X" Gang has issued a green light on all Cops. Every experienced detective has heard some informant's story about some secret meeting of the leaders of "Y" Gang who have a multi-thousand dollar contract out to hit Officer John Law. Like the boy who cried wolf, their credibility plummets after the second or third reported threat.

Most gangs frown on a policy of open Jihad against the police. Their natural enemies are not the police but rival gangs. Traditionally, the police were more of an annoyance and only collateral targets if at all.

However, this began to change after the 1993 Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, all Los Angeles Gangs seemed to become more anti-police. Recently the Mexican Mafia unbridled their Southern California Sureño army and told them to attack police if they felt disrespected and if any other Sureños were present they must join with their brother Sureños and attack police or prison officer.

When Pete Wilson was governor of California (1991-1999), he received many nebulous threats from gang members and especially prison gang members for his policies and appointments to the California Department of Corrections (CDC). On several occasions my prison gang unit assisted special agents from the Special Services Unit (SSU) of the CDC in tracking down and arresting some ghost of a rumor about some people with a contract to hit Gov. Wilson.

One night, Det. Javier Clift brought in an informant who swore he had the specific information on the Mexican Mafia's contract to murder the governor. Once we made the notifications to our brass and the CDC brass, the combined momentum of a freight train pushed the investigation forward.

The governor's security was tightened, and he got ready to call out the National Guard. But after several hours of interrogation, Clift and I felt that the informant was "putting too much jalapeño sauce" on this story. He was working the angles to get something he wanted. This assessment was just our opinions and based on our prior experience dealing with prison gang members. Lt. Bob Malone insisted on having the informant "put on the box," in other words, evaluated by a polygraph examiner.

Notifications were made and a polygraph examiner was called in the late night and summoned to the LASD Crime Lab. Several hours later, polygraph examiner Linda Quinonez agreed with Clift and me that the informant was being deceptive. The governor was safe, or at least not under a credible threat from this informant's story.

But some threats are very real.

In 1997 a nasty 18th Street Gang Member from the 7th and Broadway Clique named Frank  "Loquito" Becerra was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. On the day of the murder he had been dealing Mexican Mafia dope from a downtown Skid Row hotel. Breaking one of the ten commandments of dope dealers, he was "getting high on his own supply." He woke up to find that someone had taken what was left of his kilo of cocaine. He threatened everyone in the flop house that might have had anything to do with jacking his coke.

He particularly suspected an African American neighbor and brazenly left a note pinned to the man's door. Loquito claimed to be from the Mexican Mafia and threatened to kill him if his coke was not returned. A few hours later the African American Man was dead. Not only had he been brutally murdered but his pants and underwear were pulled down around his ankles and a dildo lay on the floor next to the victim.

Dep. Joe Mendoza from the Operation Safe Jails (OSJ) unit testified in the murder trial, identifying Becerra's gang membership and tattoos. I testified as the gang expert and tied Becerra to the Mexican Mafia by his own statements, tattoos, and associations. I explained that the victim's body was abused as the final insult to the victim's manhood. This method was sometimes used by associates of the EME to send a message to other gang members not to cross the Mexican Mafia.                          

Following his conviction and death sentence, Frank Loquito Becerra openly threatened the Dep. Joe Mendoza and me and our families. He covered his cell with graffiti several feet tall claiming his Mexican Mafia associations and his hatred of Mendoza and Me. I had this documented in a report and continued my life in "red alert-extra vigilant" mode and armed 24-7. My family, long accustomed to high alert periods, did the same. Why? Because this threat was real. Dep. Chris Brandon wrote in his report, "Inmate Becerra has the motivation, potential, and means to bring harm against Sgt. Valdemar, Dep. Mendoza and their families."

In January 1997 five people-two men, one woman, and two children (including a six month old baby)-were brutally slaughtered by order of Luis "Pelon" Maciel. Two Mexican Mafia Defense "Investigators" showed up at my family residence when I was not at home. One was a law student working with a Mexican Mafia attorney. The law student was trying to impress his Mexican Mafia masters, Luis "Pelon" Maciel and Raymond "Huero Shy" Shryock. He would later eventually pass the Bar and be admitted in May 1998. Several years later in June 2009 he was indicted during the 18th Street RICO for transferring money to Mexican Mafia and 18th Street Members in prisons. His earlier visit to my residence although only an unspoken threat was real, and I knew it. The original Prosecutor John Monahan was also threatened during the trial in this case.

Over the years I have had several badass gang members tell me that they would kill me after I had taken them into custody, but like Ahmed's "I kill you!" these threats were largely impotent. They were made because the gang members thought they were supposed to make them. For most, this was just posturing. Unless I can assess that this threat is more than just words and that this particular gang member might really have the intent and means to carry it out, I chalk it up to Ahmed the dummy talk.

Note: One place where gang threats against you can be especially dangerous is in a small town.

After retiring and moving to a small town in Arizona, I became a volunteer with Arizona Gang Task Force, GITEM. In Los Angeles although I arrested several thousand gang members over my 33 years, I rarely ever ran into them again after the arrest except in my role as a gang detective. But days after my first big gang sweep in Arizona, I ran into several of the gangsters we arrested while I was off duty and shopping at the local Wal-Mart.

If you work in a small town you must be more consistently aware of your surroundings and who is aware of you. Working in a small town or rural area, your threat assessment must give more weight to the ability of the bad guys to find you and your family members. Always carry your weapon off duty and talk to your wife and family about what to do if you are ever confronted by a bad guy when you are with them. But don't let gang threats ruin your off-duty time or cause you to be a recluse. In your chosen job as a cop, threats come with the job.

Author

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.

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