LASD Jail Probe: A View From the Inside

While behind bars, I honed my skills with on-the-job training. I learned how to slip out of my handcuffs, cut metal, and smuggle knives, hacksaws, and drugs. Most of all, I learned how to manipulate, intimidate, and confuse deputies who were still learning how to be cops.

Photo: CC_Flicker/abardwellPhoto: CC_Flicker/abardwellNote from Richard Valdemar: The following article was written by a member of one of the most murderous street gangs in Los Angeles and the Mexican Mafia (EME) prison gang. There have been many news articles about the treatment of inmates in LASD jails spawned by ACLU critiques of the jail staff and Sheriff Lee Baca. Despite the efforts of well-meaning deputies, murderous gangs will continue to thrive in LASD jails.

What makes a murdering maniac? I don't know for certain, but I've got the credentials. I was born and raised a barrio boy in East Los Angeles; passed around from one relative to another after my mother's death when I was 7; kicked from one placement to another; and trekked through the various juvenile facilities on my journey to gangland stardom.

The streets were the only constant in my ever-shifting world, and it is there where I got my schooling. At age 12, while housed at a juvenile facility for kids, I lifted a counselor's keys, "escaped" from my building, stole his car, and, in the process, ran over another kid who was coming with me. I spent the next decade climbing the slimy and dangerous ladder of the criminal world.

By the time U.S. military officers were graduating from West Point Academy, I was leading at least 1,000 men in race riots. They were so vicious in their coordination that the ACLU remarked that they wouldn't object to segregation. My own "career" rĂ©sumĂ© included several murders and being one of the first to introduce crack cocaine to my East L.A. neighborhood. Beatings, shootings, stabbings, you name it. Time in L.A. County Men's Central Jail and N.C.C.F. (North County Correctional Facility) was an opportunity to further my rise to the top.

While behind bars, I honed my skills with on-the-job training. I learned from other seasoned EME members who themselves had been in race wars in San Quentin, Folsom, and Soledad. I learned how to slip out of my handcuffs, cut metal, and smuggle knives, hacksaws, and drugs. Most of all, I learned how to manipulate, intimidate, and confuse deputies who were still learning how to be cops. The county jail became my house, and I did my best to keep my house clean.

Numerous jailhouse attempted murders were done "kamikaze" style—dubbed that by myself and my "elders" for their brazenness and disregard for deputies standing only a few feet away. Deputies are unarmed in county jail, a situation that's taken full advantage of. Not one of my stabbing victims was stabbed less than 20 times. In a two-day span, I stabbed an inmate more than 50 times, and attempted to murder a deputy the next day.

As a result, I was severely beaten. My body was bloody and broken. I reveled in that I almost gave my life to "the cause." I wasn't the least deterred, but I marveled that those "suckers" didn't kill me. How weak of them, I thought. And so I was welcomed into the arms of the Mexican Mafia.

Needless to say, this sordid and shameful resume of madness was built on other people's blood and suffering. I didn't care about "building a better world" or "taking advantage of opportunities." The world stood in my way, and I would use every opportunity to do what needed to be done to further the cause of the EME. I understand the fanatic, the extremist, the suicide bomber—their "cause" is god, and no amount of well-meaning humanism will ever change that. The change must come from within, and mine was nothing short of divine intervention.

Now, many years after the fact, I can evaluate my past with the benefit of having been on both sides, of having both feet in both worlds. It is important to remember that there's more than a single side to the story, and these variants often merge into an incomprehensible situation called "reality."

One thing is certain. If my past way of life was evil, and if organization to which I belonged to—and killed for—was a social cancer, then I would rejoice every time "physicians" such as the LAPD, sheriff's, Gang Task Force, OSJ, FBI, and others, would have their hands tied by those meaningless and pesky considerations called laws, ethics, and morals.

We didn't play by the rules, and every chink in the armor of law enforcement officials was an opportunity to be exploited for our twisted life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Thankfully, our civil society is full of well-meaning groups to allow us just that.

Of course, that's not the whole story. In the words of Lord Acton, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Physicians ought not turn into "angels of death." Don't apply chemotherapy to those with a head cold or stomach pain. Necessary restraints prevent the physician from killing the patient while delivering him from disease. Cancer has no rules; it infests healthy cells in order to subjugate and destroy them. There is nothing sacred, nothing "good or bad." Organized crime, and specifically the Mexican Mafia, work exactly the same way. And the Men's Central Jail was perfect for cancers such as me to metastasize and become deadly.  

Your children are our potential recruits. Your schools are our training and indoctrination grounds. Your highways and border crossings are also ours.  Your rules do not apply to us. It takes more than Tylenol or Nyquil to destroy a cancerous tumor. Radiation is nasty and dirty, but it's the only thing that gets the job done. Sometimes, law enforcement has to do the same thing, and it makes society sick.

It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. When I read the sentimental stories about "poor prisoners" in Pelican Bay, pining away in the SHU because their mean CDCR landlords don't want them to "succeed," I know it's useful propaganda for the mob. There is a big difference between someone in jail for stealing or other nonviolent offenses and those neck-deep in crime and prison politics.

Sometimes these stories are written on the same page as a story about the most recent gang shooting or a prison riot or a major bust. Who is responsible for those acts of evil? For every poor mother weeping for her dead son, beaten to death by the sheriffs in the L.A. County Jail or shot during a traffic stop (both of which are investigated), there are thousands of weeping mothers who stand at their young sons' funerals, victims of this blood game that was my own. Who will answer for these?

Do you know what happens when the gang cancer spreads? Look no further than the narco republic of Mexico, where the problem has infiltrated every level of society and government, and entire cities are held hostage by drug cartels. The Mexican military has been brought in to handle the problem. After five years and almost 50,000 drug-related murders later, it doesn't look like they're winning.

There, with the economic downturn and widespread corruption, it's no longer merely the marginalized and the inner city youth who are joining the employment lines of the narco-traffickers—professional soldiers, college grads, and "normal" people are now included. In Mexico, money laundered through restaurants, casinos, construction, and the nightlife industry could reach as high as $50 billion, which is about 3% of Mexico's legitimate economy. That's what happens when the cancer spreads.

We're next, because we're part of the problem—Mexico's problem and ours. Who will "investigate" the gang jailhouse murders, and who reprimands the gang leaders? Who will police the prison yards, where smartphones, dope, and gang politics are the norm? With the economic downturn and technological advancements, with cuts in law enforcement budgets and glorification of thugs in music, movies, and the media, expect for the cancer to spread.

I should know. I was one of them. If I do have "an axe to grind," it's because I don't want my children or grandchildren to be gunned down at a quinceanera party, become addicted to drugs, or walk in my dark steps that led to "life without parole." It's a merciful end, considering my jury chose that instead of death. Whenever it's a bad day for cops, you can be sure it's a good day for the mob.

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