Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Book: “Chicago Based Gangs: Beyond Folks and People”

Retired Chicago PD Gang Detective, Joe Sparks and King County, WA, Gang Specialist Gabe Morales just released a new book entitled “Chicago Based Gangs: Beyond Folks and People”. The writers expose important information useful in developing a thorough knowledge and working grasp of gangs which have now spread to all fifty states and beyond the US.
Here are a few exerts:
It is interesting, many of the city’s first gangs consisted of different volunteer fire departments that competed with each other. Some of the first documented Chicago street gangs were Irish, many of whom, also ironically later became cops or politicians. There were Irish gangs such as the Dukies and the Shielders who raided the railroad yards, stock yards, and preyed on their own as well other immigrants like the Polish, Germans, and Jews. Sometimes the Irish gangs were referred to as “Mickies” referring to the high number of Irish surnames that began with “Mc”.
In Irish communities, sponsorship of gangs by politicians and businessmen transformed them into so called “athletic clubs” like the Hamburg Club, Ragen's Colts, and the Old Rose Athletic Club. Based in saloons and clubhouses, and often claimed membership of over a hundred men ranging from their late teens to early thirties. By the turn of the century, Italian/Sicilian gangs began to take over the crime rackets.
The first Vice Lord teacher was Edward “Pep” Perry. He first tried to join the Imperial Chaplains, but was rejected so he started up his own group the “Phantom Burglars”. Once he was locked up at the Illinois Youth Center at St. Charles, Pep and six other boys decided to form the Vice Lords. According to legend, Pep stated “The White man was always the lords of vice. It’s now time for Black people to be vice lords.”
The Sixties are known for many things: assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the King riots, the Democratic National Convention riot, and the Vietnam War protests, but to Joe Sparks, it was a decade of explosive growth for Black street gangs.
The Vice Lords actually started in the late 1950s in St. Charles Juvenile Corrections Facility (Charlie Town). But they became the gang that others emulated in the 1960s after many where released and went back to their West Side neighborhoods. They are the oldest and second largest Black street gang and one of the founders of the People Nation. Bobby Gore, along with Blackstone Rangers (El Rukns) Jeff Fort, Black Gangster Disciples under “King David” Barksdale and Larry Hoover, and Latin Kings led by “Lord Gino” Colon became legends.
The late 1960s was also the period of one of the bloodiest gang wars Sparks can remember. Besides the BGDs and Blackstone Rangers killing each other, both sides where killing innocent youth who wanted no part of gang life. Some were actually dragged out of their houses and assassinated because of it.
In Spark’s professional opinion, Black gangs invented gang banging in Chicago while the others, White and Hispanic gangs, were years behind when it came to organizing, politics, money making, dealing narcotics, etc.
As Gabe Morales recalls, the 1980s were known to many in the gang world as an expansion period of Crips and Bloods out of California. But “Rock Cocaine”, also known as “Crack”, which fueled growth of California groups was also readily available on the streets of Chicago and it was mostly local gangs that dealt it.
According to a Senior DEA official who worked Seattle during the late 1980s to early 1990s, law enforcement actually made the gang situation worse in some ways. Many of the local kids not wanting to be Crips or Bloods gravitated to “Knowledge” or “Literature” kicked down to them by Chicago gangs, in particular Black Gangster Disciples (BGD). Thus, many local peer groups converted to BGDs. In fact, there are more BGD/GDs today in the Greater Seattle area than any place west of Chicago.
In 1989, the Seattle Police Dept.’s Drug Task Force found many active BGD members. BGDs also communicated within WA-DOC. In 1993, at a Washington State Prison, a letter was confiscated by staff that was being sent to the head of the BGDs to ask for explicit official approval for local groups to act in concert with the Chicago headquarters.
 They have uncovered, in this book, the important historical development of Chicago gangs, their roots, their politics, and their propaganda. This book further goes beyond this foundation and provides essential insight, often through personal experiences of the authors, into the pathways of these gangs and their violence to help younger cops and communities learn more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What did we learn from Ferguson?

The story sounded familiar: Another White cop gets off the hook killing an innocent Black man!

Or maybe it was this: See I told you so, Blacks just can’t accept that they have to follow our laws!

They are two stories told from two opposing views, often having more to do with personal experience, where you lived, and your own politics than the facts of the case.

In one version, on August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson drove up and harassed Michael Brown, a young Black man, for no other reason than walking in the middle of the street. The Officer hit Brown with his vehicle door, shot at him for no reason, then gave chase and finished off the teenager outside of the squad car with several shots to the torso and head while Brown was retreating with his hands up to surrender.

In the other version, the 18-year-old Brown reached inside Officer Wilson’s vehicle hitting him in the face and tried to grab his gun. In fear for his life, Wilson began shooting at Brown from inside the vehicle, then fired fatal shots outside after he had no other choice.

Which story is the truth? The answer to that question may be biased by the race of the opinion maker.  

It also comes down to whether or not you have a lot of faith in the American judicial system.

The majority of Whites in this country tend to think of the system as being fair, but not perfect.

Many Blacks in this country feel the system is racist, unfair, and far from perfect as history and often their own personal experience has shown.   

Some witness accounts were conflicted about whether Brown walked, stumbled, or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded. There were also differing accounts of how or whether Brown's hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson's vehicle, quite a distance, and that is where the story varies the most.

Wilson told jurors that he initially encountered Brown and a friend, later identified as Dorian Johnson, walking in a street and when he told them to move to a sidewalk, Brown responded with an expletive in defiance. Johnson stated that Wilson was rude and yelled to them, "Get the fuck on the sidewalk!" Wilson then noticed that Brown had a handful of cigars, "and that's when it clicked for me," he said, referring to a radio report minutes earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store. The store managers appear to be people of color. Store video showed Brown handing a friend cigarillos then snatching some more from behind the counter, close to $50 dollars worth in all.

Make no mistake about it, Michael Brown was no angel, by this point he already committed a misdemeanor that he escalated to a felony crime when he fought with the store manager. If you believe Officer Wilson, Brown was about to commit several more felonies that led to his death.     

Wilson said he asked a dispatcher to send additional police, and then backed his vehicle up in front of Brown and his friend, later identified as Dorian Johnson. As he tried to open the door, Wilson said Brown slammed it back shut. Wilson said he pushed Brown with the door and Brown hit him in the face. Wilson told Grand Jurors he was thinking: "What do I do not to get beaten inside my car?"

Later, pictures were taken of Wilson’s face which shows a red imprint, about the size of a fist, on the right side of his face, not the left side that would be facing out on the driver’s side. Perhaps Brown hit him with a left hook as Wilson was talking to him from inside the vehicle. The photos also showed a red mark to the back of the neck; Wilson stated that he was hit two times in the face. He also made a reference of Brown being like huge famed wrestler “Hulk” Hogan and that he felt like he was a five year old kid holding on. Wilson is not a small man, they are about the same height, 6-foot-5-inches, but the 289-pound Brown was bigger by approximately 82 pounds in weight. 

"I felt another one of those punches in my face would knock me out or worse. I mean, it was, he's obviously bigger than I was, and stronger, and the—I've already taken two to the face, and I don't think I would—the third one could be fatal if he hit me right." He then stated, “I drew my gun," Wilson told the Grand Jury. "I said, 'Get back or I'm going to shoot you.'" Wilson went on to say, "He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me,'" Wilson told Grand Jurors. He said Brown grabbed the gun with his right hand, twisted it and "digs it into my hip."

After shots were fired in the vehicle, Brown fled and Wilson gave chase. As the bullet wounds would show, at some point, Brown turned around to face the officer. Brown was not armed and he was not shot in the back. Why somebody who had already been shot at close range by the police vehicle would turn around and charge the officer is also puzzling. Perhaps Brown was under the influence or perhaps he was just turning around to see how close the pursuing officer was and stumbled as some say.

But, the undeniable fact is Brown lay dead in a pool of his own blood. 

A Grand Jury considered the case for three and a half months. It heard testimony from numerous eyewitnesses and saw forensic evidence. It heard from Officer Wilson but there was no cross examination and few Jury instructions. Grand Juries are usually secret proceedings, so if you are a believer in government corruption and conspiracies then you were probably already suspicious.

Critics of the process had already called for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed instead of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert “Bob” McCulloch handling it.

It was already expected that many people, especially Blacks, would be angry about the Grand Jury announcement. So in a departure from tradition, McCulloch, who has strong family ties to law enforcement, walked through the timetable of events and promised to release a complete account of what the Grand Jurors heard and saw. Those who doubted the Grand Jurors' decision would have a chance to weigh the evidence for themselves.

Indicting Wilson or any Officer in this country is difficult because Police Officers get wide latitude when they use “Deadly Force” in the line of duty. A 1985 Supreme Court decision gave a green light to Officers to use deadly force when they reasonably believe their own lives or the lives of others are threatened, and Missouri state law is even more permissive. In Police Academies all over the nation, Recruits are trained to use this force only as a last resort. Many modern departments and national police watch dog groups encourage Officers to deescalate situations when possible, not to shoot down unarmed civilians.

If one is to believe Officer Wilson, the Prosecutor, multiple Autopsy Reports, the forensic evidence, and multiple reliable witnesses who just so happened to be African-American, then the killing was justified after Brown hit Wilson, tried to grab his gun (forensics showed Brown had gun powder residue on him and Wilson had Brown’s blood on him and vehicle evidence showed shots were made at close range), then Brown made a "full charge" at Wilson before he was killed.

But to police critics, certain things still don’t make sense, even though the Grand Jury's conclusions appear reasonable if one believes the Prosecutor. Questions remain: Were 12 shots necessary to subdue Michael Brown or was it excessive force? Was there some other, non-lethal way to control the suspect? Why didn’t Officer Wilson wait for back-up? If the Officer was scared, as he admits, did he overreact and empty his service weapon on Brown? Was he scared of Black people or just defending himself?

Almost as important as these questions is a startling fact, police shot to death more people in the line of duty in 2013, than any time in the last two decades. A total of 461 people were killed, many of them Blacks.

It is also true that assaults and deaths of Officers in the line of duty is up, 105 or 76 killed in 2013, depending on how you classify the deaths as being “in the line of duty”.

Many of the suspects in Officer deaths were charged or will be. There are no official numbers on how many police killings lead to indictments or prosecutions, but the unofficial numbers back up the widespread belief that few Officers, less than 2% are ever charged for shooting and killing someone when they're on the job. Add to this, the fact that Blacks are locked up in prisons and jails in alarming disproportionate numbers makes many Blacks fear, not respect cops.

Some reports show that police arrest African-Americans at rates 10 times greater than any other race, so it's little wonder that majority-Black communities such as Ferguson believe that police often act in biased ways and that killings such as Brown's grow out of that prejudice. Adding to that, police forces tend to be predominately White, often former military servicemen, even in cities where the majority of the civilian population is Black, like Ferguson. This leads some to view police as being an “Occupying Force”.

After the verdict was read, some people understood the anger and disappointment that some people must have felt, especially the Brown Family. But why burn down sections of the city where Blacks live and work? Large White businesses were probably insured, it is Mom and Pop businesses, often Black owned that suffered the most. It also appears that many of the rioters were outside agitators who hate all cops. Police said more than 150 gun shots were fired by agitators in Ferguson during rioting that followed a Grand Jury’s decision.

Violence came despite pleas from officials in Missouri, the Brown Family, and even President Barack Obama who encouraged calm in a speech from the White House that was televised side-by-side with pictures of police clashing with demonstrators in Ferguson.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray referred to the events as “the murder of Mr. Brown” and said that many outside the African-American community share the “tremendous hurt” at a Grand Jury’s decision not to indict the Police Officer who killed the teen. Known for his bluntness about race, the Mayor argued that American society is “failing young African-American men,” and said it is time to “recommit us to making this a more just city. … Our community is committed to racial and social justice in all areas.”

Seattle had its own controversy on August 30, 2010, after the killing of Native-American woodcarver John T. Williams on a downtown street. As with the Ferguson Shooting, no charges were brought against Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk who later resigned from the force.

The local Jurors for the Brown case, whose identities were kept secret, were 75% White: 6 White men, 3 White women, 2 Black women and one Black man. St. Louis County overall is 70 percent White, but about two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are Black.

The Grand Jury could only determine whether probable cause existed to indict Wilson, not decide whether he was guilty or not. Obviously, Jurors found they lacked probable cause that Officer Wilson committed a crime, let alone having enough evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.

Larger societal issues and pent-up frustration remain after the decision and likely will linger for years to come. The dialogue about race and culture should continue, but unfortunately many people will retreat back to their perspective camps until the next incident occurs, again taking polarized positions, but doing little about it.

One local young Black man who appeared in a national TV interview after the rioting probably said it best, “In order to change the system, we must become the system. In order to change the police, we must become the police. In order to change the laws, we must become politicians.”

Ferguson brought some very important topics up, but death, destruction, and violence in one's own community is not justice, it just continues the injustice.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

From Carnalismo to Chaos

A new book written and compiled by veteran Colorado-DOC Gang Intelligence Lt. Steve Lucero and Gang Expert/Writer Gabe Morales covers "Chicano Gangs and History of the Southwest U.S."
They start off with the Mexican–American War, an armed conflict between the United States of America versus the United Mexican States, that took place between 1846 and 1848. During this war, U.S. forces quickly occupied New Mexico and California, then invaded parts of Northern Mexico and ultimately rode into Mexico City securing victory for the United States. The former Mexican citizens in these lands became American citizens overnight but most did not get rights promised and many had their land stolen. 
They then describe "Bandidos" of the latter half of the 19th century were often depicted in the media and books as either being fictionalized and romanticized “Latin Lovers” who were lazy and seduced women or shown as murderous, blood thirsty, no good thieving outlaws. Others said their criminal acts were committed as “social bandits”.
The book then delves into the evolution of Chicano Gangs from the Pachuco Era who were torn between two worlds and created their own culture, to the Vatos Locos, many of whom momentarily took on a spirit of Carnalismo and joined the “Movimiento” for Chicano Rights, to Cholos who regressed into gang banging, and the Homies of today who often prey on their own communities.
The book then breaks down this modern day chaos state by state and suggests that perhaps a new “War Against Gangs” or a “Moratorium on Violence” should take place in the Southwest United States. It is filled with historical pictures and first-hand accounts of how things got so out of hand and how we can prevent, intervene, and suppress violence for youth in the future no matter what color.  

The publication can be ordered at:


Children at Our Border

The problem of illegal immigrants is not new. Illegals have been coming into the United States since 1776, but what has changed over the years is the countries of origin that they come from.

Today, they tend to be browner and come from the south instead of the east.

More than 60,000 have come since January, 2014, many of them being minors who were traveling alone. This year has seen a 117 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied children under age 12 caught at the U.S.-Mexico Border, compared with last year.

Growing poverty, unemployment, and drought in Central America all play a role in the current surging immigration numbers. Also a factor, is the false belief among many children that U.S. immigration laws will allow them to remain in the United States if they can just get into the U.S.

What many people don’t know, it is the gangs of Central America (a rare American export), that are behind much of the disinformation. If young children travel north they are charged a human trafficker fee by the gangs, if they don’t agree to pay they can be killed, held for ransom as kidnap victims until family members pay up, or forced to “mule” drugs across the border "to pay off their fee".

The main groups behind this push are the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio Diesiocho (18), both gangs being very active in Central America, that have their early roots in Los Angeles, California.

The Barrio 18 (or 18th Street) gang, is the older of the two. Both formed in and near the Rampart District of Los Angeles. Barrio 18 formed in the mid-late 1960s and was a mixed race gang that included a lot of Mexican Nationals. These were recent immigrants, or the children of recent immigrants who banded together to protect themselves from more established Chicano gangs like Clanton Street. Soon, 18th Street became the biggest Hispanic gang in L.A.

Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) formed in the 1980s after Salvadoran youth, many who wore their hair long and looked more like Stoners or Heavy Metal enthusiasts than thugs, banded together to protect themselves from predominately Mexican gangs like 18th Street. Soon, they started to resemble the more common "Cholo" image of Chicano/Mexican-American gangsters. Soon, other Central American youth and even non-Central American youth began to join MS.

As members of both gangs were deported they started large factions in their home countries, mainly El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. While they were known for being violent in L.A., they took it to another level in Central America. They literally ran some neighborhoods and penal institutions!

Recently, there was a peace treaty between the two groups in Central America after years of bloodshed, fighting over neighborhood turfs, and violent riots that left scores dead. Many experts feel these “overtures towards peace” were really just extortion attempts at Central American governments if the gangsters promised “not to act out.” They previously extorted everything from taxi cab drivers, bus drivers, to mom and pop stores. In addition, as Mexican Drug Cartels used overland cocaine routes from South America, they tapped into the drug trade and protected drug routes. They also worked with “coyotes” or human smugglers, often jumping young boys into their gangs and forcing young girls into prostitution.

The increased role they’ve played lately is telling young and desperate kids that their ticket to riches and fame is to come with them to the border, cross into the United States, and then they’ll have it made for the rest of their life. Many of these youth get caught and placed into detention in the U.S.

The problem is, as one Mexican Consulate member stated recently in private, many are too young to communicate well even in Spanish. Some are as young as five years old! They are scared, afraid to trust anybody (as has been ingrained in them by the violent gang members), and legal proceedings can be very long and complicated. It can take months before they can get help.

“Immigration Reform” is once again a major issue in Washington D.C. and along our southern border.

Both Democrats and Republicans point the finger at each other in the growing polarization and game of American politics with little action; meanwhile, little children suffer, both at the hands of our government and that of Central American gangs.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Two New Books on Gangs: Don’t Mess With Texas! Gangs in the Lone Star State & Gangster’s Paradise: Gangs in the Pacific Northwest

"Don't Mess with Texas" is co-authored by veteran gang expert Juan "Johnny" Santana who went after the Texas Mexican Mafia, also known as the Mexikanemi, and other gangs. There are many more contributors in it who worked first hand combatting Security Threat Groups in the Lone Star State.

Some Exerts:

The shotgun slayings of five people in a San Antonio home in August of 1996 called the “French Street Massacre” apparently came on the orders of "Beaver" Perez. Nine other killings over the previous three years were also blamed on the notorious Texas prison gang. The RICO indictment accused the Mexikanemi of routinely dealing drugs, robbing, extorting and assaulting. The quintuple murders, the worst mass murder in modern San Antonio history, apparently stemmed from an order to rob the house. It was given out by Perez, a top lieutenant in the organization, who wanted to be General. The gang was after drugs and a large sum of money it believed was at the residence. The bodies of five people were discovered, all shot in the head execution-style......

Inv. Santana called the El Paso FBI Office and contacted an Agent ironically named Ruben Barragan. The Task Force now had another strange possibility of the intended target. This agent knew Hershey and further advised that in the mid 1990’s Hershey had been a TMM Lieutenant in charge of a hit squad for the Mexican Cartels in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. For some unknown reasons, Hershey had issues with ranking TMM members in San Antonio, Texas, and subsequently they placed the “Green Light” on him. Hershey prophetically told the agent that he expected some day that San Antonio was going to send someone to kill him and it looked like the day had come. The agent advised Santana that he would make attempts to reestablish contact with Hershey in light of the unfolding events. He also advised that he would place his squad on high alert in case something went down.

On November 2, 2001, The Task Force intercepted a call in which the Mafia members discussed  travel plans. Rodriguez, Guerrero, and their Captain Ruben “Low” Herrera scheduled their trip for the following morning. That meant that Santana, along with other Task Force members, had to do the same. In the calls they never mentioned weapons, so it was assumed that the members in El Paso were probably going to provide the hit team with weapons. The Task Force also assembled a team for Long Range Moving Surveillance (LRMS).

On November 3, 2001, the Task Force staged at 5:00 AM and went to Carlos Rodriguez’ residence on the West Side. Rodriguez was followed in his rented Trail Blazer to a house deep in the West Side. They saw Rodriguez, Guerrero, and Herrera enter this house and they stayed inside for a short period. When they came out, there were no discernible weapons. Rodriguez then went to some project housing and did the same thing. Surveillance was difficult in these crime ridden places. Finally the Task Force got on to Highway I-10 West and proceeded to follow him to El Paso with an entourage of government vehicles tailing him...

After about an hour later the San Antonio Task Force received a phone call from the El Paso Task Force advising that they had lost them. This was very frustrating. There was a group meeting, finally Santana and team decided to return to San Antonio. They drove over 1,110 non-stop during the operation and they were tired. Agent Barragan was also unsuccessful in contacting the intended target.

It was later found out that Rodriguez and his associates had made the El Paso Task Force surveillance team and had crossed over into Mexico, then reentered the U.S. side, and returned to San Antonio. This operation was very anti-climactic, but looking at the positive end of things, at least we foiled their plan and nobody was hurt. Hershey was not mentioned ever again.

This book gives an overview of all of the major gangs in Texas and includes personal stories and insights from investigators who actually worked many cases. It is a must have for anybody who deals with gangs in Texas or interested in combatting them.

It can be purchased at:


Gangster's Paradise: Gangs in the Pacific Northwest was written by national gang expert Gabe Morales with a Foreword written by local Gang Detective Joe Gagliardi:
In many places, a certain mindset seems to be prevalent with gang cops: "This is my gang intelligence. I gathered it, and I don’t want to share it." These types of cops believe that if they were to share this knowledge with their peers, it would somehow diminish their personal gang expertise, thereby diminishing their own usefulness. In fact, quite the opposite is true: the more you share, the more your peers will keep coming back to you as the “Expert”. After all, you’re the one that gathered the information in the first place…While others are just learning about stuff and repeating that information, you’re already out acting upon it, gathering new information, and you’re already way ahead of the game.

Gabe seems to intrinsically understand this dynamic. When I first reached out to him, he immediately started feeding me information on local gangs and gang members. He knew that I had nothing to "trade" and he expected nothing in return. My knowledge of the local gang culture literally doubled overnight when Gabe sent me his personal profiles of the main gangs that were active in my area, recent gang bulletins from other law enforcement agencies, and even which areas had higher concentrations of gang activity. As you can imagine, this information gave me a huge head start when I finally started my field training with KCSO.
Gabe's reputation and willingness to share "his" information was nothing new...

When you mention the Pacific Northwest, the first thought many people have is lots of trees and rain. It does have those things, but also a multitude of climates and different terrain. Unfortunately, as you have seen, this little piece of paradise also has street gangs who had thousands of victims.

At the turn of the century gang wars still existed, they just looked a little different from the Irish, Jew, or Italian gang wars one hundred years earlier. This time it was not Italians “whacking” the Irish, but murder was still occurring as street gangs searched for a reason to hate. 

Salvador “Chava” Nava, a member of Yakima’s Varrio Sur Locos (VSL) committed the murder of a rival Norteno Antone “Tony” Masovero in 2001. Nava was accused of shooting Masovero, age 21, in revenge for the fatal shooting days earlier of Victor Serrano, a VSL Sureño better known on the street as “Smurf.” Masovero, who was linked to Serrano’s slaying, was shot twice in the head as he and several friends sat in a car outside a taco stand on Nob Hill Boulevard. At his autopsy, authorities noted he was wearing a red belt with the number 14 on it, the 14th letter of the alphabet being the letter “N” which is a symbol for all Norteños....

An early-morning jogger found Milam's bullet-riddled body with a blue Kango hat on the street in the 5200 block of 57th Avenue South just past 5AM on October 17, 2005. Police detectives found a spent 9 mm shell casing at the scene, a cigarette butt and a blue cap with powder burns indicating Milam was shot in the head at close range. Other evidence, including bullet fragments, were recovered from Milam's body, and led investigators to believe he was shot by at least two different guns. Detectives sent the recovered shell casing and cigarette butt to the Washington State Patrol Lab. In January, 2006, the lab matched DNA from the cigarette and the shell casing to Norman, a convicted felon who was already serving time for unlawful possession of a firearm. 

Soon after Milam's death, detectives learned Norman and an associate, both members of separate Central District gangs, were the last two people to ever see Milam alive. At the time, both men said they had been with Milam at a friend's house, hung out, and then dropped him off at a Central District intersection. They told police they had no idea why he was killed.........

One of the main focuses by law enforcement in Washington State over the past two decades was to create a state-wide gang data base to track validated gang members for safety and security purposes. Veteran law enforcement and corrections and staff assigned to gang units or who worked gangs on a regular basis knew there was a “strong need to identify security risks to be pro-active for their safety and for that of the general public”.

When dealing with any criminal, law enforcement must use caution. When dealing with violent gang members, people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and those with mental health issues or who are severely distraught during domestic violence calls, the consequences can be deadly.

This in-depth book covers the history of gangs in the Pacific Northwest like no work ever before. It is filled with pictures and details that only an insider would know. The Author has interviewed many gang members, cops, and corrections to bring you up to speed on who's who and what's what on the street...you won't be able to put it down!

It can be purchased at:


Monday, May 5, 2014

Shrimp Boy & Company Bust

In late March, 2014, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was arrested on the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Prior to his takedown, Chow’s Ghee Kung Tong organization was infiltrated by the FBI for five years.  After the bust, he was charged with money laundering and conspiracy to traffic stolen goods in a far-reaching federal indictment that included over two dozen other defendants.  To the shock of many, the indictment also included California State Senator Leland Yee.

Chow was born in 1960 in Hong Kong and nicknamed "Shrimp Boy" by his grandmother due to his small stature.  He soon made up for his physical size by gaining a large reputation. Chow joined a gang in his native Hong Kong when he was only nine years old after he stabbed a guy.  Sources say Chow was then inducted as a youngster into an organized-crime group in Macau.  He came to the United States at the age of 16, soon dropped out of high school, and became involved with the Hop Sing Tong gang in San Francisco.

When Chow was 17 years old he survived an attack by a rival gang called the “Joe Boys” at the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown on December 4, 1977.  The attack was soon referred to as the “Golden Dragon Massacre”.  The incident left five people dead and eleven others injured, none of whom were gang members, and it shocked the entire community.  The assault was supposed to be a retaliation assassination for the death of Joe Boys member Felix Huey who was killed in a shootout with the Wah Ching in Chinatown's Ping Yuen housing project two months earlier.  Both attacks led to the creation of San Francisco PD’s Asian Gang Task Force that still exists today.

Chow was locked up for a series of crimes starting with a robbery conviction in 1978.  He was released in 1985, but in '86 Chow was charged with 28 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, mayhem, and illegal possession of a firearm.  He served three years in prison and was released again in 1989.  In 1992, Chow was arrested for racketeering and charged under two separate trials.  The first was for illegal gun sales and the second was for prostitution, drugs, and money laundering.  He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 24 years but he blamed many of his acts on just following orders under pressure from Peter Chong, head of the powerful Wo Hop To.

Prosecutors alleged that Chong, along with Wayne Kwong, and Shrimp Boy, planned to murder Boston Chinese underground figure Bike Ming in an effort to form new umbrella organization called Tien Ha Wui ("Whole Earth Association") that would dominate crime in Chinatowns throughout the United States.  Chong fled to Hong Kong just days before his indictment in 1992 for his role in the plot, but he was extradited to the U.S. in 2000.  After Chong was captured, Chow turned on his old boss and cooperated with authorities, testifying against him in exchange for a reduced sentence.  As a condition of his release, Shrimp Boy surrendered his visa.  He requested witness protection but his request was denied by the prosecuting attorney.

When Shrimp Boy was released from prison in 2003 he claimed to be reformed.  Chow's professed recovery and youth work earned him praise from such politicians as California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein.

But according to federal authorities it was all an act.

In the current case, lawyers believe most of the 29 defendants will say they were illegally entrapped by the FBI, but they emphasized entrapment won't be part of Chow's defense.

"Our defense theory based on the investigation we have is that there was no entrapment because he didn't do anything wrong," Defense Attorney Curtis Briggs said.

Ironically, prior to his arrest, Sen. Yee was a gun control advocate.  He was charged with attempting to buy automatic firearms and shoulder-launched missiles from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.  Prosecutors allege he was desperate for more campaign money in his efforts to run for Secretary of State for California.

In the meantime, the FBI's interest has expanded to San Francisco City Hall and is far from over.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman-The Rise of a Drug Lord


Feared drug lord Rafael Caro-Quintero, released from a Mexican prison in 2013 after serving only twenty-eight years of a 40 year sentence for drug trafficking and the 1985 murder of U.S. DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, as well as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera, head kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, were both born deep in the hills of Mexico’s “Golden Triangle”.

In the mid-1970s, when "Operation Condor" was launched, 10,000 Mexican soldiers were sent to a region dubbed the Golden Triangle where the mountainous areas of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua meet.  The operation began in 1975 under intense pressure from President Richard Nixon's Administration that started the U.S. “War on Drugs”.  It is rumored that American advisors and DEA agents directly participated on the ground and that American pilots took part in the spraying of chemical defoliants on illegal crops.

The commander of the operation was hated General Jose Hernandez-Toledo who had taken part seven years earlier in a violent massacre of college students in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square. To many people, Operation Condor was just an extension of other Latin American cold war counterinsurgency tactics that had successfully liquidated rural guerrilla movements like “El Partido de los Pobres” led by Genaro Vasquez and Lucio Cabañas in the Mexican state of Guerrero in the early 1970s.

The brutal repression tactics used by the Mexican Army in the Golden Triangle left a legacy of violence and hatred for authority and the Mexican federal government that continues to this very day.  Although widely touted as being successful in objectives of destroying vast quantities of drugs on the ground, the operation was seen as a overall failure in that the flow of drugs into the U.S. was not stopped.  Most of the traffickers became rich and were able to leave the region while the rural poor left behind suffered greatly.

It also solidified Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) in the area and throughout all of Mexico.  While the concentration of the crackdown was on the Golden Triangle area, Mexican DTOs were forced to move their operations to other regions and the DTOs carved Mexico up into "Plazas".

Mexican drug lords began appearing as soon as drugs in the U.S. were first outlawed in the early 1900s.  To the traffickers it was a matter of supply and demand and a good way to make a living. 

The life and death of Jesus Malverde has not been historically verified, but according to local legend in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, he was a “Robin Hood” type of bandit who was hanged by the authorities in 1909.  This was just prior to the Mexican Revolution of 1910.  Since Malverde's “death,” he has been considered a hero to Sinaloa's poor highland residents; many of whom earn a living through drug trafficking.  It is from many legends like Malverde and real life drug traffickers like Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman that current Mexican drug lords have tried to portray themselves not as villains but as heroes to the people.  Local musicians even played "Narco-Corridos", popular folk songs of homage to people like them.

The outlaw image caused Malverde to be adopted as the patron saint of the region's drug trafficking business and he was dubbed a “Narco-Santo.”  Malverde even has a shrine in Culiacan, Mexico, that attracts thousands of people each year.  The Catholic Church does not recognize him as a saint but many of the people do.  Narco-traffickers also often pray to Malverde for safe passage of their load (narcotics) to the U.S.  In addition, many drug traffickers pray to the image of La Santisima Muerte. This translates into English as “The Saint of Death”.  Statues, alters, and other paraphernalia relating to this image are increasingly found in Mexico and in the U.S. 

To understand this fairly new phenomenon read Tony Kail’s book, “Santa Muerte: Mexico's Mysterious Saint of Death”.


The greatly feared Sinaloan Cartel was run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-Loera, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Hector “El Guero” Palma-Salazar who was arrested June 1995, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, at the home of a police commander.  Over 30 federal police officers were also arrested for providing him protection.  Palma-Salazar was extradited, placed into federal custody, and put on trial in the U.S. for drug trafficking charges.  He was confined at the U.S. Supermax-ADX prison in Florence, CO, with a maximum release date of July 16, 2016.  Meanwhile, “El Chapo” was arrested in 1993, but escaped in 2001 from a Mexican prison in a laundry cart with inside help.  This was just before he was about to be extradited to the U.S.

Once freed, Chapo grew his drug trafficking organization into the best in the world! 

After 13 productive years of being on the run, Chapo was captured  in early 2014 by Special Forces of the Mexican Navy in the bustling seaside resort city of Mazatlan.  He was caught while asleep in the early morning hours of a modest high-rise condo with his wife, a young former beauty queen named Emma Coronel-Aispuro. 

So what does this mean for Mexican DTOs and drug trafficking into the United States?

The Sinaloa Cartel is characterized by many strategic alliances.  Legions of young people would rather die in Mexico fighting for Chapo than, as early 1900s  Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata said, “living on their knees”.  Foreign criminal groups like Mexican-American street gangs  run drugs via Sinaloa's distribution hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles as well as other U.S cities. When one such large network was taken down in the “Windy City”, violence soared up as Latino and Black gangs fought over the decreased supply and increased drug demand.

Inside U.S. penal systems and out on the streets, prison gangs like the Mexican Mafia (EME) have  influence on neighborhoods such as Florencia 13 near South Central L.A., telling street gangs to become more organized, and bring less heat from the police over such little things as putting graffiti on neighborhood walls.  While law enforcement noticed a decrease in such vandalism, they noticed an increase in Sinaloan Cowboys, as well as homages to Jesus Malverde, and alters to La Santa Muerte. 

While the Cartel has been known to kill if need be, it has preferred to buy power brokers off, than "wack them" thus creating fewer enemies.  As far as their drug dealing rivals; however, they will use whatever resources at their deposal.  The Cartel also wisely does not get involved in the leadership of its business partners so what affects their "headquarters" does not necessarily affect "subsidiaries" and visa-versa because there is little top to bottom control.

In comparison, other organizations like Zetas, a group forged by former Mexican military renegades, have less that binds them together so their leaders must act stronger and employ more discipline to keep all of the pieces together.  They are more of a top to bottom group so when there is change or disputes at the top it creates a lot of chaos and confusion throughout the entire organization because there are no automatic methods of succession. The pieces are more prone to seek independence from each other.

This is not how the Sinaloa Cartel is set up, while there are leaders, they are more like businessmen at the top, the real strength of the organization is in its horizontal make-up working for a common cause: Making lots of money!

Even with his capture, Chapo still has a large and loyal army.  Sinaloan cells like "Los Antrax" did his bidding before his arrest and continue to do so.  His partner Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada is still on the loose even though he has given interviews to the press. His son Vicente Zambada-Niebla was captured in April, 2009.

Speaking on the advice of his father, Vicente claimed he was previously given immunity from U.S. officials. After being extradited to Chicago in February 2010, Zambada-Niebla argued that he was  "immune from arrest or prosecution" because he actively provided information to U.S. federal agents. He also alleged that failed ATF “Operation Fast and Furious” was part of an agreement to finance and arm the Cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals.  It was previously widely rumored in Mexico, and even among some American sources, that between the years 2000 and 2012, Mexican and U.S. governments had an arrangement with the Cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while the Sinaloans provided information on rivals.

Both Mexican and U.S. government officials rejected that claim, and while those alarming rumors have yet to be verified, court documents showed a close parallel between the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel's dominance in Mexico and the DEA's frequent contact with a known top Sinaloa lawyer.

For now, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman appears set to remain in Mexico's highest-security prison for the foreseeable future as the government will likely put off his U.S. extradition for as long as possible in a move that could bolster President Enrique Pena-Nieto's nationalist credentials. It also shines a bright spotlight on the country's weak judicial system. Experts say Pena-Nieto's administration, and those of his predecessors, have proven unable to match bold arrests like Guzman's with complex long-term investigations and wide-spread prosecutions of deep-rooted crime syndicates. Criminal cases stall, Cartels continued to operate, while there is victory in one corner there are set-backs in another. In 2013, one of Guzman's closest allies, Rafael Caro-Quintero, was freed from prison where he was known to be running drugs from behind bars with prison body guards surrounding him.

But the capture of Chapo poses more problems than him just continuing business as usual.

A greater risk to the Mexican government and other power brokers will become more apparent if Chapo, playing his cards as master of Mexican politics, starts speaking to authorities about embarrassing events, exposing wide spread corruption that protected his organization both inside and outside of Mexico. More than problems with the Cartel, this could wreak havoc within the political and business classes that desperately need to protect themselves from his testimony.

The Mexican government says with increased security there is no way that Guzman can repeat the 2001 escape that let him roam western Mexico for 13 years as he moved literally hundreds of billions of dollars of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin around the world. Most experts believe Guzman will not be able to operate out in the open as freely as he did before, but he will continue to work covertly to avoid detection with insulated sub-cells loyal to him but not directly controlled by him. 

While other Mexican DTOs may see his capture as a venerable time to try and take over some of Chapo’s territories, the flow of drugs will continue…

Read more about Mexican Drug Cartels in “Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community”