Gang Members Practice Their Skills

One at a time each of the three targets got out of the vehicle, walked in a big circle around the McDonald’s, went inside, only to return to the vehicle with a small drink. Then the next target did the exact same thing. Finally the third did the same. In tactical police terminology this is a clue that they were casing the McDonalds before robbing it.

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The seven men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau and Prison Gang Surveillance Team were staked out on the Chino Hills home of Ronald “Slow” Slocum of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

“Slow” would later make the papers in the U.S. Attorney’s News Release on the October 2002 RICO Indictments against the Aryan Brotherhood. But today we watched his house and surveilled his movements in an attempt to catch him in the act of being himself. We hoped to watch him commit a crime.

This was our stock in trade, monitoring, collecting intelligence, and disrupting the activities of the four prison gangs: the Mexican Mafia (EME), the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF), the Nuestra Familia (NF), and the Aryan Brotherhood (AB).

Prison Gangs are a quantum leap above street gangs. They are the career criminals who rise to the top of the food chain of the most violent criminals in the prison system. They are survivors of the numerous gang purges, and constant racial wars, and the gunfire from the prison gun towers. They are very dangerous professional career criminals, so members of the Aryan Brotherhood know their business.

In this particular case we were scattered in a newer residential housing area, making our undetected covert surveillance a challenge. We fixed an “eye” (observation point) on the residence and set the remaining plainclothes cars and detectives to cover the access and egress in and out of the housing area.

We knew “Slow” had friends in the neighborhood who might become suspicious and call him to report our activities. We knew that Slocum himself would employ his best counter surveillance tactics against us. All this is basic prison gang training taught by the criminal veteran targets of the most elite police surveillance teams in California.

We rotated the deputy on the “eye” every hour or two to keep his mind from going numb. But surveillance is many hours of boredom punctuated by a few moments of intense and dangerous activity. “I have movement …the Rock is out!” We heard the eye say over our portable radios. Then we heard, “Rock’s in the sock in the drawer” (the subject is in a car in the driveway). Our boredom was now turning to activity and accelerating.

Several years prior to this, the actor Emilio Estevez rode with our LASD surveillance team in preparation to making the movie “Stakeout”. If you listen carefully you will hear him use our “rock in the sock” terminology in the movie.

When he asked Det. “Bubba” Williams and me how we kept from becoming bored during these long surveillances, we told him about the practical jokes we commonly played on each other. This also would make its way into the movie.

But this was no joke, our target was on the move and his head was on a swivel looking for the tail he was taught would surely be there. But our eye did not blink or move.

A male passenger jumped into the vehicle with Slocum. Now we had double trouble: a driver and an observer. We let them think that they were alone as they drove out of the residential area and onto a major highway. There two covert units picked them up and stayed with them as they began to “dry clean” themselves.

Dry cleaning is a counter surveillance tactic in which the target vehicle makes a series of right turns. Any vehicle that makes more than two turns with the target vehicle is surveilling them.

Slocum also drove past his own residence with someone standing in the front yard to visibly confirm a tail. In another classic tactic he pulled to the curb and parked then quickly took off again. He drove through large parking lots and made several last minute lights and several U-Turns. But my LASD team skillfully took turns as lead vehicle behind the AB car and changed places frequently. Nobody went more than once turning directly after the target vehicle.

Finally the vehicle parked at the curb near a liquor store and the two ex-cons walked a half block to a bank of pay phones. An animated conversation was observed, and we guessed that the two must have been arranging to either buy or sell drugs. We knew that Slocum was a heroin user and his unidentified partner looked like a tweeker (speed user).

After more than 40 minutes of waiting a heavy set white guy in a “too small for him” sports car pulled up.  After a few minutes of conversation the big guy in the sports car followed the two AB boys back to the residence. When they went inside, we ran the plate on the sports car.

The plate came back as a valid plate registered in the Sacramento area, but it was not for a sports car. For some reason the big guy looked familiar, but he was not any member of the Aryan Brotherhood that any of us was familiar with.

Det. Jerry Whitfield got me on the radio and asked me to meet him. Jerry kept the record books for our Prison Gang Surveillance team and he pulled out a wanted flyer for a subject we had looked for a few days before this one. He was a Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang member who was wanted for a Northern California murder and the picture looked like our sports car driver before he cut his hair and shaved. Det. Bubba Williams (our resident Biker expert) confirmed the identification.


The only problem with that was that Slocum and the Aryan Brotherhood was a higher priority target than one Nomad HA murder. If we took the biker down now we would burn our covert surveillance of Slocum. It could be a long time before we might have another chance to stop the gang of murderers that the AB gang represented.

Before we could act, the eye broke our conversation with “…the three rocks are loading into a sock” (all three subjects are getting into a car). We scrambled to our positions.

The target vehicle was a new one that must have been parked further back in the driveway. Like a hungry predator shark it swam through the traffic on its way to a meal. After some more dry cleaning we followed the three targets to a McDonald’s Restaurant. The place was not crowded on this early afternoon, but the vehicle circled the parking lot before stopping behind the building.

You didn’t have to be Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes to know what they were thinking. This was an armed robbery about to happen.
We scrambled in our covert vehicles trying not to be seen putting on our heavy ballistic vests and green raid jackets, and breaking out our short shotguns.

One at a time each of the three targets got out of the vehicle, walked in a big circle around the McDonald’s, went inside, only to return to the vehicle with a small drink. Then the next target did the exact same thing. Finally the third did the same. In tactical police terminology this is a “clue” that they were “casing” the McDonalds before robbing it.

The famous LAPD SIS team is very similar to my Prison Gang Surveillance team in structure, training and mission. However, unlike the LAPD SIS team the Sheriff’s Department’s policy is to prevent the robbery if possible, as the lives of the innocent patrons and business owners are more important than making a good case or getting into a shooting with the suspects (like in the movie “Heat”).  It looked like we would have to take them down in the open parking lot, before they committed the act.

Just as I began to make notifications and requested local backup, the target vehicle learched forward away from McDonalds and out of the parking lot. It exited onto a cul-de-sac street that ended behind the restaurant and after a few very quick turns disappeared.

The suspects were still unaware of our surveillance and we were too close for them to have gone very far. Two minutes later the same car and subjects were back on the cul-de-sac and parked at the rear of the McDonalds. A second time they sped away, only this time one of the team members saw where it went, the would-be-robbers parked in a nearby apartment complex parking lot.

From this position the three suspects could sit and watch the traffic, and see the police response and if they were being pursued. They followed this pattern a third time. They were practicing their “get away.”

On both the second and third “get away” we were ready to take them down, but we made a tactical decision to wait for at least one uniform marked police unit as backup. Unexpectedly the target vehicle lazily drove away again and the three suspects reentered the Slocum residence. Of course this is when our back up showed up. We briefed the two marked CHP units about our prior observations and gave them a photograph and the license number of HA suspect.

Now we waited again, but not for long. The big Hells Angels murder suspect stuffed himself into the tiny sports car and began to weave his way out of the housing area. As he entered the major highway, one of the CHP units activated his lights behind the suspect.

We tried to remain covert while we backed up the CHP Officers on the stop. The HA suspect stopped and at first seemed to comply with the felony stop procedures dictated by the officers. But after making sure that both officers were outside their vehicles, he jumped back into his sports car and the pursuit was on.

The sports car took the pursuing officers onto the freeway (which proved he was from out of town). Trying to avoid the traffic jam ahead he missed the off ramp but tried to drive down the sloping incline. The tiny vehicle rolled a couple of times and the pursuit was over.

Our mission was accomplished. The HA murder suspect was injured but not badly and in the custody of two very happy CHP Officers. Ronnie “Slow” Slocum was still unaware of our continued monitoring of his activity, and would later fall in the AB RICO. And we had sharpened our skills and got a glimpse of how professional career criminals practice their skills.

Related Articles:

Murder Ink

The Aryan Brotherhood—The Dogs of War Part I

The Aryan Brotherhood—The Dogs of War Part II

Skinhead and Other White Supremacist Gangs


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Sergeant (Ret.)
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