Bryan Stow, a husband and father of two, clings to life at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The excellent doctors and hospital staff have employed all their skills in attempting to save his life and prevent further damage to his brain. He is in a coma and has suffered critical "brain injury and dysfunction," according to his neurosurgeon Dr. Gabriel Zada.

Stow, who lives in Santa Cruz, is a 42-year-old paramedic and avid San Francisco Giants baseball fan. On March 31, he attended season opening game at Dodger Stadium with a few friends. Stow and some other Giants fans wore hats and clothing with Giants logos and colors in support of their team. Apparently in Los Angeles this seemingly innocent act carries the death penalty.

During the game, a pack of cowardly thugs dressed in Dodger clothing were harassing and intimidating anyone they recognized as a Giants fan. As Stow and his friends hurriedly tried to leave stadium after a 2-1 Dodgers win, he was struck without warning from behind. He was then kicked and pummeled, while laying on the ground. A few brave souls tried to come to Stow's aid, chasing the thugs away. Two of the fleeing suspects were picked up by a woman driving a four-door sedan with a small boy in the car.

At first, the Los Angeles media portrayed this incident as fanatic Dodger baseball fans attacking a Giants fan. The reporters carefully avoided identifying the suspects as gang members for fear of being thought of as racists. Take a look at the composites — they may not be identified and validated in the Cal-Gang computer yet, but they are gang members.

In Los Angeles, there seems to be a cultural tolerance for thug gangsters. We don't want to offend anyone. They walk around Los Angeles sporting gang clothing with shaved heads and tattoos advertizing their gang affiliation and cry racism if anyone identifies them as gang bangers.

If public venues, businesses and store keepers refused them service or asked them to leave, the ACLU lawyers and gang loving "do-gooders" would sue and protest on their behalf. However, we think there's nothing wrong when these same shop keepers post signs displaying "no shirt, no shoes, no service." What? It is OK to refuse service to a shirtless citizen, but not to a troublemaker gang thug? Do you want to discourage gang membership? Stop catering to these gang members.

The Giants and Dodgers a longtime baseball rivals. Both teams began play at their new California homes in 1958. The New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers were rivals in New York. The Giants moved to San Francisco in Northern California, while the Dodgers wound up in Los Angeles. This latest attack had very little to do with baseball rivalries.

From its beginnings in the California Youth Authority, the Mexican Mafia and its army of Southern California gang members called Sureños have identified with the Dodgers' "LA" logo and Dodger Blue. When the rival northern Hispanic gangs formed the Nuestra Familia prison gang in the mid '60s, they adopted the rival Giants logo and the color red. Look around — the thugs wearing Giants or Dodgers caps and jerseys are not doing it to support a baseball team. They do it to support a prison gang.

Much has recently been made about the poor security at Dodger Stadium — the inadequate lighting, poor parking system and the serving of beer at the games. Adding insult to injury, Dodger Stadium sits on the same land as the LAPD academy.

Perhaps more uniformed LAPD officers should be assigned to the stadium. Maybe Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could appoint a stadium safety czar. Perhaps Kroll Security Chairman and ex-LAPD Chief William Bratton could repair the broken windows and paint over the graffiti in the surrounding neighborhood. Maybe City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's community gang workers could mediate disputes between the rival fans.

Or maybe Dodger security and the police could be allowed to identify gang troublemakers and make them feel unwanted in and around the stadium. How about arresting and prosecuting gang members who disrupt public events and intimidate good citizens and families?

I don't go to Dodger games. I used to go, and I knew lots of good cops who used to go. But the tolerance of gang members at this venue, and the stadium's policy of not allowing off-duty officers to be armed at the stadium is offensive to me. On Dodger Stadium's Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Dodger Stadium offers free admission to members of law enforcement. However, it forbids them their right to carry their weapons. This hypocritical policy seems to say, "We honor you for protecting and serving us, but we don't trust you in our home with a gun."

Like the infamous assaults at Raiders football games, and the riots after basketball and soccer championships, these dangerous activities will continue as long as society accepts and tolerates this gang-like activity.

Gang members represent a criminal culture. Our language and symbols don't mean the same thing to them. We live in different worlds. Right and wrong are not understood in the same way. Symbols are interpreted differently.

To Bryan Stow and the rest of the sane world, his Giants baseball gear represented his love of baseball and his support for his team. To that cowardly pack of gang thugs, it was the symbol for the rival Norteño gangs and the Nuestra Familia prison gang. To them, this is like wearing a Nazi uniform to the Auschwitz survivors' reunion.

And who can afford the high cost of taking the family to these sporting events? Some sources have reported that the Dodger organization often distributes free tickets to favored organizations in poorer neighborhoods. Is this how these gang members get good tickets and can still afford to get drunk on $5 beers?

The policy-makers must decide. Do we as a society abdicate all public functions to gang members in the interest of some twisted idea of racial tolerance and become recluses in our own homes? Or should we protect good citizens by enforcing the rule of law vigorously, and make no excuses for gang thugs?


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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