Here’s how it works: It isn’t always if you’re a member of a gang…. Sometimes it’s where you grew up….or who you were friends with in elementary school….or who you’ve known all your life because you grew up down the street from each other…or what gang you would have been in if you’d been in a gang….even though you weren’t, and were the good kid who stayed out of it, and did the right thing, and made your parents proud and didn’t bang, or put in work, or really claim a neighborhood, get jumped in……and all that.
Sometimes you can end up dead anyway.
According to gang expert Alex Alonso, it was that kind of tangential association to gangs that may have had much to do with why foot ball star Jamiel Shaw was killed.
Here’s some of what Alonso had to say:
Jamiel wasn’t a bad kid, but he did have relationships with gang members in his community that led to Espinoza’s fatal assault on him. Jamiel lived in a community occupied by Bloods that have been at war with 18th Street for 12 years. With witnesses pointing out that a Hispanic was responsible for the murder, the only logical assailant would be a member of 18th Street, a predominately Mexican-American gang with some illegal alien members. Reports that 18th Street gang has a membership that is 80% illegal is false. Of the County’s total gang population approximately five to 10% are illegal.
The 18th Street gang formed in the 1960s in the Pico-Union community of Los Angeles and has formed over 20 separate gangs within Los Angeles County. Collectively they are the largest Hispanic gang operating under the same name, but in actuality, each of the 20 or so discreet 18th Street neighborhoods should be treated as individual autonomous gangs, since many of the separate neighborhoods clash and have internal rivalries in an unstable network. Reports that 18th Street as a “supergang” are media myths that also include gangs such as MS13, Maravilla, Surenos, Crips, and Bloods, all which are NOT gangs but umbrella labels that hundreds of gangs in Los Angeles identify with. If there were any truth to the existence of these “supergangs,” then the Crips, predominately black, would be the largest street gang in Southern California with approximately 20,000 members in Los Angeles County alone and several thousands more in the surrounding Counties. Since the Crips and black-on-black violence was yesterday’s news, our media is no longer concerned with their violence, even though they are responsible for the majority of gang crimes in our city. Mainstream media attention on gangs for some has now shifted to highlighting the violence that the smaller illegal alien gang member population have committed.
In the Arlington Heights neighborhood, a preliminary investigation reveals that the shooter from 18th Street went to the door of one of Jamiel’s neighbors and shortly thereafter saw Jamiel walking on the street, who was wearing a red belt, a common gang identifier in that neighborhood. According to a witness, the shooter asked Jamiel what gang he was from and then he shot him. All indications about Jamiel was that he was a good teen with a bright future, but what may have caused the shooter to single Jamiel out was his association with the neighborhood including amiable relationships with Blood gang members. His relationships with these gang members should not take away from his good character nor does it justify his murder, because people such as Jamiel inevitably interact with gangs because they are in the neighborhood, on the school bus, protecting residents from other gangs, on the street corners and at the high school.
Many of our City’s 40,000 gang members in the database are teens like Jamiel, just mere associates that interact with those in the community and play sports. They are not of the criminal element, but based on his associations, law enforcement would categorize young Jamiel as a gang member, and if they read the following quote that Jamiel wrote on one of his myspace pages under “people I’d like to meet,” it would raise more eyebrows to his gang affiliation:
“I’D LIKE 2 MEET OTHER B-DOGS SOME FREAKY GIRLS BECAUSE U GOT 2 BE A VERY FREAKY 2 TALK 2 ME. SOME crabs SO I CAN BEAT THOSE c-monstas. BUT MAINLY OTHER GIRLS. aND 2 TALK 2 MY FREAKS”
The term “B-DOGS” in the above quote is a reference to Blood gang members, and “crabs” is a derogatory reference to Crip gang members. I would characterize the above statement as normal adolescent behavior but law enforcement will call this gang related. Jamiel was not a bad kid, but he was specifically targeted because of his gang association……..
Jamiel’s association with the Bloods was strong enough to cause the shooter to target him, making this shooting purely gang related as the shooter’s purpose was to benefit the 18th Street gang’s objectives. When the shooter asked, according to a witness, where Jamiel was from, that provided the shooter’s motive lessening the role of race in this shooting. The murder of Cheryl Green in Harbor City in 2006, the murder of Kenneth Wilson in 1999, the murder of Christopher Bowser in 2000, and the murder of Anthony Prudhomme in 2000, all in Highland Park were black residents killed in purely racially motivated fashion where the victims had no gang affiliation in communities where black gangs were not even present. Additionally all the Hispanic assailants in the above murders were US Citizens.
Where Alonso has it right is that Jamiel’s death is a reminder of how complex our city’s gang problems really are, and that those who would simplify the tragedy that is gang violence with stupid, arbitrary laws, in the end, become part of the problem.
It would be nice if something as wrong-headed and simplistic as Jamiel’s Law and/or Dennis Zine’s related resolution could make a substantial dent in the mess that is gang violence, and thus would prevent future tragedies like the death of Jamiel Shaw.
But unfortunately it just isn’t the case.
If we want to keep other Los Angeles mothers from enduring the unbearable loss that Jamiel’s mom faced this past Mothers’ Day, we’re going to have to work a little bit harder than that.