This is an old article about theis kid and his family.
A WAY OF DEATH GANGS, COPS, LIFE ON POMONA 12TH ST.
Sitting in a folding chair in front of her home just hours after her nephew was arrested on suspicion of murdering a highway patrol officer, Cecelia Arenas scowled as she rolled a cigarette.
All morning, she had been surrounded by sheriff's deputies and undercover police armed with assault rifles, as they searched the guest house, where she lives, and the main house, where her nephew, Valentino Mitchell Arenas, was born 16 years ago into a family with a history of gang ties.
As she finished rolling her cigarette, a small tattoo could be seen on her left hand - ``P12'' for Pomona 12th Street, one of the area's oldest and most dangerous gangs.
``A cop,'' she said. ``I don't know what he was thinking. I can't believe he shot a cop.''
Police arrested Valentino Mitchell Arenas, known by family members as ``Little Junior,'' less than 12 hours after investigators say he gunned down California Highway Patrol Officer Thomas Steiner outside a courthouse in Pomona.
He did it, police say, because he wanted to impress 12th Street gang members who had refused to let him into the gang.
Friends and family aren't so sure why he might have done it. Some say he was already a member of the gang. Others simply can't imagine what might have prompted him to commit such a crime.
``I don't know what to say,'' Cecelia Arenas said. ``It doesn't seem real. His life is over. The cop's family and our family will be changed. Nothing will be the same.''
Friends describe Valentino Arenas as a lonely kid, nicknamed ``Yogi,'' and often teased because of his weight.
As a student, he was often in trouble, bounced back and forth between Pomona Unified School District campuses for threatening students, bringing weapons to school and other offenses.
His father and other relatives are gang members, but his mother was desperate to keep him out.
She enrolled him in a gang-prevention program, pleading with counselors to help her keep him out of gangs, but last year, he was dropped from the program when funding ran low.
On April 21, Arenas took his mother's car, a red Nissan Sentra, and drove to the Superior Court building in Pomona.
There, he saw Steiner, a five-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, a married man with two children.
Steiner had just left the courthouse after testifying in a traffic case and was walking to his car.
Someone yelled, ``12th Street,'' according to a courthouse worker. And then three to five shots rang out. One bullet hit Steiner in the head.
Police say Arenas pulled up in front of the courthouse, jumped out of his mother's car and opened fire. Then he got back in the car and sped away.
Steiner was pronounced dead four hours later at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, family members at his bedside.
The red Nissan was found three blocks from the courthouse within two hours of the shooting, and Arenas' father, Valentino Arenas Jr., was arrested that night in his Fontana neighborhood on probation violation, for carrying a false ID. He was on parole for attempted robbery and suspected in a March 12 bank robbery.
Shortly before 3 a.m. the next morning, the teenage suspect was in custody.
Heartbroken, the family patriarch, Valentino Arenas Sr., stood in front of the family's Pomona home last week, waving his arms and shouting, ``Leave us alone.''
Then he stopped and grew quiet.
``He's a good kid,'' he said as he unlocked the padded gate to the back yard. ``I know that, but what does it matter now? It just doesn't matter anymore.''
Valentino Mitchell Arenas was born on March 18, 1988, in an old stucco house on Ninth Street in Pomona, the heart of Pomona 12th Street territory.
His Aunt Cecelia said he had to grow up fast. He had to become the man of the house. His father was in jail.
``He had to help support the family,'' she said. ``He always wanted to be in construction just like his father and grandfather.''
Friends remembered how he would buy diapers for his 16-year-old sister's baby.
``He really cared about his family and friends,'' said 17-year-old Jamie Ruiz, a close friend who lives not far from his aunt's home. ``He left school all the time to work construction with his father and grandfather so he could help out his sister.''
Recently paroled herself, Cecelia Arenas also belonged to Pomona 12th Street. Inside her pistachio-painted home, the walls are decorated with pictures of her children, some of them making gang signs with their hands.
Gangs are a way of life in the neighborhood.
``It's just something that every kid in Pomona grows up with,'' Ruiz said. ``We all have family in gangs, but it doesn't always mean we're part of a gang. Some kids join, and some don't.''
Everyone who grows up near 12th Street knows somebody or has somebody in his or her family that's in a gang, said 16-year-old Lydia Martinez, a former girlfriend of Valentino Arenas.
``It's life here,'' she said. ``They always want to make us look bad, but when my brother was killed, the cops only looked for his killer for a day, and then they forgot all about him. I think I saw one helicopter search for my brother's killer. I counted more than six the day the cop was shot.''
Martinez's brother, 24-year-old Jason, was killed by a rival gang in Pomona two years ago.
Ruiz and Martinez have written Arenas letters in jail and say they will stand by his side now as they have in the past.
Katherine Shone, a special education teacher at Lorbeer Junior High School in Diamond Bar, remembers Arenas as a troubled youth who had difficulty in school and problems at home.
``He came to my class like many of the kids that get transferred to my class - because he was either having problems at school or because his grades were failing,'' Shone said. ``He loved art. I recall how happy he was when he won (an) art contest and all the kids in class were congratulating him, and for once in his life he was somebody special.''
A longtime friend, who, fearing for his own safety, spoke on condition of anonymity, said Arenas was often picked on in junior high because of his weight and how in turn he often tangled with black students.
``I remember Yogi got in three big fights with the black kids on campus,'' the friend said. ``They were mostly talk, but it got out of control and then Yogi threatened that he was going to shoot one of the guys.''
School district documents show Arenas had a history of trouble at school.
Arenas threatened in October 2002 to shoot a fellow student at Diamond Ranch High School.
George Fullerton, a high school disciplinarian, signed an order to transfer Arenas to Garey High School.
An employee at Garey High School said Arenas had been in trouble just weeks before Steiner's shooting for bringing a weapon on campus.
Arenas was suspended, the employee said, but not expelled.
School officials declined to comment, citing privacy rights.
In her dark blue room with stars on the door, Ruiz and two friends sat on her daybed, talking about Arenas. Amid a long row of photos taped to a wall is a picture of Arenas and Martinez smiling. They're at their favorite pit stop, Jack in the Box.
``When my friend Javie got shot by a cop, nobody did anything,'' Ruiz said. ``We just get used to it. It's a part of life. But when the cop got shot by Yogi, everybody went crazy. I've never seen anybody get crazy like that when one of us gets killed here.''
In January, Pomona police shot and killed 19-year-old Javier Beas, a 12th Street gang member and Arenas' friend.
Police said they found a group of men standing at the curb when they arrived to investigate a report of a man with a gun. Beas ran, and, as officers gave chase, he pulled a gun. The officers fired, killing him.
``But I don't think he shot the cop because of him,`` Ruiz said. ``Nobody knows why he shot the cop. I think he should plead insanity because he just snapped.''
Ruiz's room is a haven, she says, a safe place in an unsafe town.
``Everybody in Pomona packs a gun. You can pick a gun up anywhere. It doesn't surprise me that Yogi had a gun. ... We have to stick together because we protect each other. Nobody else will.''
And that's why they will remain loyal to Arenas.
``He'll never come out of prison,'' Martinez said. ``He'll be there for the rest of his life. But we don't want him to forget that we'll support him.''
After Arenas pleaded not guilty last Thursday to murder charges that could lead to life imprisonment without parole, Ruiz stood alone outside the courthouse, less than a block from where Steiner was gunned down.
Police stared at her from vehicles across the street.
Television crews walked past her to interview prosecutors and other officials.
A few of Arenas' friends made their way out of the courthouse and disappeared onto the streets of Pomona.
``It's funny,'' Ruiz said. ``Everybody acts like they know what happened, like they know Yogi. Nobody cared about him before. All they want to do is make this go away. But it's been going on forever and nobody cared until now.''
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