Jamiel Shaw’s gang association made him a target for murder, not race

By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
May 9, 2008

aaaslauson_tnLOS ANGELES – On March 2, 2008, Jamiel Shaw Jr., 17 was gunned down by 19 year old Pedro Espinoza, a 18th Street gang member who had been arrested on the same day of Jamiel’s funeral according to the Los Angeles District Attorney. Espinoza had spent nearly four months in a Los Angeles County jail for possessing a firearm and resisting arrest before he was released March 1, 2008 just 28 hours before he murdered Jamiel. Within a week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had filed paperwork naming Espinoza a potential candidate for deportation. If convicted for this crime, he will most likely receive a life sentence, so the immigration hold brings no heavier punishment for this offense. It turns out that when Espinoza was four years old, he was smuggled into the United States from Mexico and he grew up in a neighborhood just west of Shaw’s Arlington Heights home.

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When the murder was reported in the local news, Jamiel was characterized as the son of a military mother, who was a successful high school athlete that was not involved in street gangs in any way. The media described this murder as “senseless” and when it was determined that Espinoza was an “illegal alien,” the story of Shaw’s murder was being highlighted by the media’s strongest critics against illegal immigration; Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs. According to Bill O’Reilly, “Jamiel was just walking around, he wasn’t a bad kid, he’s an athlete, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time” (March 24, 2008 – The O’Reilly Factor).

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 very few undocumented 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 percent are not US born.

The 18th Street gang formed during 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 or membership with the neighborhood gang 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:


Source: http://www.myspace.com/lilckaboom

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. Some find it difficult to believe that such a talented athlete would even talk or affiliate with gang members, but college athletes and professional athletes alike are known to have strong ties to their neighborhood gang. Just last week, Boston Celtic’s star Paul Pierce, threw a Piru Blood gang hand sign to Al Horford after a spat during a playoff game that represented his Inglewood neighborhood in California. Stacey Augmon who has gang ties to the Denver Lane Bloods in Pasadena has had a successful career in the NBA and won a national title in 1990 playing for UNLV. In 1996 many skeptics warned about drafting Keyshawn Johnson out of USC because of his “gang ties” to the Fruit Town Brims but Johnson has had a hall of fame career without incident and now a commentator for ESPN. Baron Davis, the star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, has gang ties to his South LA neighborhood and he’s currently producing a film about LA’s gangs, and he is the godfather to Harlem Caron Taylor, the son of gangster rapper The Game. Additionally, Charles Jordan, a Blood member from the Mad Swan Bloods gang played six seasons in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers and was known to tribute his gang with a hand sign after scoring a touchdown.

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.

In nine years as testifying as a gang expert in criminal courts, I have seen dozens of individuals wrongly classified as gang members, including mothers, brothers, and other relatives for just being seen in the neighborhood or having an association with someone who is in a gang. Read about Mario Rocha. This vague identification process that police officers use is the reason why the City claims 40,000 gang members with nearly 100,000 gang members County-wide. Many of these young men never know they are being entered into a gang database, and all it takes is an officer to complete a field information (FI) card and write “admitted gang member.” The purpose for including gang affiliations on as many FI cards as possible makes any offense that the individual commits in the future prosecuted with gang enhancement penalties even if the offense was not gang related.

I have always been against lumping people like Jamiel as a gang member, but because of this conundrum, we must look at gangs not as vicious criminal organizations, but as naturally forming delinquent groups, rooted in community, that include everything from non criminal associates to the hard core elements and everything in between. Many of these adolescent youth will mature out of the gang within their first year and never acquire a criminal record or commit violence. Gangs are complex organizations that require a deeper understanding than what media sensationalism and law enforcement depictions offer on the topic.

Of those 40,000 gang members in the City today, we should only be concerned with about 4,000 to 6,000 of those members who are the habitual repeat violent offenders responsible for approximately 90% of all gang related crime. The rest of these “gang members” are close friends, associates, peripheral players, relatives, school friends, “wanna-bes” and community residents. Assuming Espinoza is guilty, one has to attempt to explain why this murder took place before we even try to work at mitigating future violence in this community and certainly before anyone can draft law that is suppose to prevent these types of murders from happening again. Many will suggest that if Espinoza was deported, this shooting would have never occurred, but lets take it further and understand that if 18th Street and the Bloods from this neighborhood were not engaged in conflict, not only would Jamiel be alive, so would several other people.

Anyone truly committed to mitigating the violence between the Bloods in Jamiel’s neighborhood and 18th Street should try to organize a truce between the two neighborhoods that have been feuding for over a decade. I am certain that with proper fiscal resources being used to organize and sustain street worker’s efforts on the conflict between the Bloods and 18th Street, a resolution to this conflict can be achieved that would have a regional impact on other neighborhoods that will educate young people and save lives. Thus far all I have seen is a demonstration of politics among people who have no understanding on gangs and the problems that plague these communities while another family grieves the loss of a great son.

UPDATE: May 11, 2008
On another myspace http://www.myspace.com/185526611 page belonging to Jamiel, and last accessed on March 2, 2008, the day he was murdered, he makes some very interesting statements. He states:



– “Tru G” means true gangster.
– “SABG” Second Avenue Blood Gang, a click of the Rollin 20s Bloods
– He spells the word “bitch” with a “K” after the “c” which is “cK” for Crip Killer. The letter “c” is also deliberately spelled in lowercase because this letter is synonymous with Crips. He spells the word “Black” and “twice” the same way.
– “30k” means 30s Crip killer, the main Crip rival of the Bloods in this neighborhood.
– Here is the irony, he writes “eK” meaning Eighteen Killer, a gang at war with the Bloods, and the same gang which Pedro Espinoza, Jamiel’s killer was from.

Posted by on May 9 2008. Filed under Features, People of CA v. Pedro Espinoza. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

479 Comments for “Jamiel Shaw’s gang association made him a target for murder, not race”

  1. florence

    Peace will be achieved the day our city representatives will understand that violence comes from ignorance and poverty. If more money was invested in education after school program, people from the inner city will come together.
    Police intervention doesn't always help it's still room for dialogue and understanding.
    I am myself working as a volunteer in an after school program in South central L.A ,http://www.apch.org , kids from different race and communities cohexist and things works fine.

  2. Josh

    you must be mexican illegal is illegal plain and simple

  3. WINEDOGG ..

    It is a real shame that things like this go down , but in Los Angeles gang violence has been a part of life and people get used to it in way that it really does not matter what happens out here they just take it and go on with life, it`s routine and it happens all day long it really hurt`s when it hit`s home then they understand there is a real problem in our street`s and want to do something about it when it `s to late , the problem should be dealt with at the source and that is the gang it`s self start from the core of the problem and deal with the issues these youngsters and grown folks go threw. lot`s of gang members don't know that there part of a gang till they leave there neighborhoods and go other places they think it is normal to were blue or red or represent were they are from lots of kids don't know what Disneyland is or better yet were it is located ask a kid from a broken home , the hood etc.. that question and see what he answers? it is hard to make other people who don't live in our communities understand that this is a way of life and it is much deeper than you would think . well the only solution for the problem`s on our streets is more money and get real people who care to administrate it in a fashion that will help ! not just to profit from our problem there are people who really don't know ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT GOES ON IN THE INNER CITY BUT THEY GET MONEY TO HELP OUT A CAUSE THAT THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT AND USE THE FUNDINGS IN THE WRONG WAY, BECAUSE THEY ARE PROGRAMS OUT THERE TO HELP AND WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT ALL HELP AIN`T GOOD HELP IN OTHER WORD`S DON'T HELP BUT DON'T GET IN THE WAY OF PEOPLE WHO REALLY WANT TO HELP ..PEACE TO ALL LOS ANGELES GANG MEMBERS, TRY TO KEEP THA PEACE ….IT CAN HAPPEN … EAST SIDE WILMAS GANG ..

  4. jd80631

    Let me begin by saying you sent your article to me via spam. I still read it as I happen to supervise a large Gang Unit. Two things I would like to point out about your article;
    You trash this victim by insinuating he is a gang member. Then you try to come off as pious and not judging him, yet express your so called expert opinion that he would be clblankified as a gang member. You apparently do your expert testimony for any fly by night defense attorney willing to listen to your BS.

    If you knew what you were talking about you would know that the law requires that an individual must first meet the legal definition of a gang member. THEN that individual would have to be involved in a gang crime before he could be legally clblankified as a gang member. Since the victim in this case apparently does not meet the criteria he would not be clblankified by law enforcement as a gang member.

    In the future spam people who can read through your BS and recognize you as just that a BS artist trying to make a living off of victims.

  5. Trey626

    You must "supervise" the most retarded gang unit on earth. Alex Alonso is right that the individual wouldn't necessarily need to have been arrested to be clblankified as a gang member in the gang database. That's true for injunctions and federal gang law. The LAPD enters gang affiliates in the data base for all of Shaw's Rollin 20's nhb gang, criminals or not.

    This is a great article though I wish Alex had spoken more about the irony that this profiling of black gang members like Jamiel Shaw that jd80631 finds so objectionable is exactly what the Shaws are planning for the Hispanics with Jamiel's Law. And Shaw took his affiliation too far, in my opinion.

  6. mr. Alonso never called Jamiel a gang member in the above article. I read it twice and he NEVER said that. Mario Rocha was convicted a committing a gang related crime and he never was even a gang member so I am sure that innocent kids are in the database.

  7. Trey626

    Read it ONE more time. Jamiel Shaw called HIMSELF a gang member and LAPD agreed. A B-Dog is a Blood. Jamiel Shaw called himself a Blood. That's a gang member. Unfortunately, he paid with his life. This is so tragic but it was gang retailation against another gang. It wasn't a hate crime and let's hope this article puts an end to the insanity of these trumped up hate crime charges by politicians who don't know about gangs.

  8. KayCee

    Just because he has a myspace and claiming to be a "B-Dog" and writing eK, cK and ect. doesn't mean he's a REAL Blood on the streets. Unfortunately there are a lot of kids that claim gangs on the net, but not on the street! It's called "net banging". Myspace can be dangerous for those kids whether they're real or fake claiming because they don't know who's browsing thru those myspace pages and we all know that gangs are going to look for their enemies online, so his page with his picture could have been seen online by a local rival 18th street gang member who decided to take it to the streets. Whether Jamiel was a gang member or not this is a TRAGIC thing that happened!

  9. Ms. DeeVeeAns

    Wow, what a thorough, comprehensive article THANK YOU, for pointing out the trigger happy police who can label anyone they want and then use that label to excuse their maltreatment of certain folks; for pointing out the multi-complex layers of community organizations that are inevitable and perhaps necessary to some degree, due to determinant socio-poli dynamics…..fascinating information…I will pblank around for sure. Oh and excuse those pontificating verbally-defecating white middle clblank fatheads…..they cannot help themselves being victims of their own ignorance.

  10. Ken

    From what I have heard, the DA has insinuated to Jamiels family that if they didn't back off their claim of a hate crime, that they would paint Jamiel as a gang member, or an blankociate. His father said he was a spiderman fan, so he had numerouse spiderman articles which are red. The powers that be are doing all they can to deny any brown on black murders as being race related. By painting Jamiel as a gang member blankociate, they can continue to ignore this fact, & deny any hate crime, blaming it on gangs.

  11. V.Riley

    That's very true, cuz when I was fighting a shooting case back in 2004, the police entered me into their gang database called "CALGANGS", and the detective got on the stand and admitted that I was entered into their database as a gang member, EVEN THO I NEVER ADMITTED GANG AFFILIATION TO THE POLICE!, what naive, weakminded people don't understand is that the police have the power to manipulate the paperwork, they can say and type anything IN FURTHERANCE of their mission to enforce the law, which means the police lie all the time, the district attorney also lied to the judge and said I admitted to being at the scene of the crime during the crime, when I clearly didn't, and the judge stopped that young liar D.A. in his tracks and refuted his claims, the bottom line, yes, what happened to Jamiel was tragic, but at the same time, he was no saint!, especially wearing a red belt, clearly identifying himself as a blood!, it doesn't matter if he for real or net bangin', if he was walkin' down the street wearin' that red belt, he was wearin' his "colors" for the hood!, bangin' bloods, bangin' on the streets too, when he said: "I'm lookin' for C-monstas to beat up"!

  12. Big Den

    Alonso is right about the gang file. I was put on gang file at 16 years old, because I was talking to a group of geng members when police swooped up and patted everybody down. They took ID's and wrote everybody up. This is a black man y'all. Hes just telling the truth. Jamiel may have not been a hardcore gang member but he was onviously "claiming the hood" and the other dude must have known about it. Good job on bringing clarity to the story although this will rub a lot of people the wrong way including myself. I have followed Alonso for a long time, and he is the one of the only people out there that has taken the gang situation and tried to create an intellegent and unbiased understanding of what it is. Gang involvement and membership always starts somewhere. Whether it be full bore or gradual.

    I read a qoute from you about the clic I created in "Street Gang Patterns and Policies" on google books. You really do your homework, because I didnt know at the time that the impact of decisions made at such a young and uniformed age could make. Keep working, and trying to get those that dont understand the lifestyle to realize it is no different from the infighting and cultural divide we see in other countries.

    Big Den – EC190 – LWA

  13. alsheikh971

    It's really sad that you ki*led someone just because you look like a rival gang-member. Retarded !
    Espinoza acted like cops act. They both consider you're in a gang because you know or look like a gang-member : it's called profiling. And in this case, even if it's not prolly race-related, Shaw is black and he knows some Bloods => He's a Blood. The result is a pure nightmare

  14. just another dead guy, who cares?

  15. Trey626

    Considering the young man's own statements, this wasn't profiling by the gang who shot him. He was claiming membership with the rival gang. A truce is needed. But all the hatred by groups who are using the grieving family and these haters care only about their own corrupted agendas.This article wisely points out that activists must get going with a truce.

  16. Trey626

    …my prayers are with the Shaw family but I hope Alonso's article convinces them to cut off these haters and start demanding the leaders broker a truce.

  17. Sad boy

    Another excellent article by Alonso. I was also saddened by the news of Jamiel's death, and went by the media's version of it. I believed Jamiel to be an innocent victim of a brutal racial kil#i*gg. While race may or may not have had something to do with it, Jamiel's blankociations definitely did. As Alonso points out though, living in those kinds of neighborhoods, it's impossible not to interact with the people you grow up with and live with, even if they are known gang members. This is purely guilt by blankociation, and sad nonetheless.

  18. SMQ

    This was a brutal murder and the whole country is moved to grief at the loss of Jamiel Shaw. But this cannot end if we allow the forces of hatred to rule.

    Please look up Walter Moore, who wrote Jamiel's Law. Where is the evidence that he and his affiliates care about young people in gangs? It was a terrible publicity stunt by some wanna be a mayor. Just another politician that sensationalized crime for his own ugly ends and took advantage of peoples fears.

  19. SenorGringoLoco

    I only had to read Alonzo's article once. Enough times to see two things. —1. Jamiel was murdered by an ILLEGAL ALIEN. —2. Not once did Alonzo agree that ILLEGAL ALIEN GANG MEMBERS should be run down and deported. — Irregardless of the fact whether Jamiel was a gang member or not and whether his murderer's motive was "gang related" or racial He is Illegally in our country. —Alonzo's article stinks and smells of defending illegal aliens whether gang members or not. —I am absolutely sickened by Alonzo's portrayal of Jamiel. Additionally, Alonzo bears no emphasis on how badly the plight of our South Los Angeles neighborhoods are affected by the rash of Illegal Aliens overtaking our communities. — Anyone from L.A., (any "home grown" legal residents) , sick enough yet of having to press 1 for English and seeing your street turn into Tijuana?

  20. SMQ

    OMG what hatred you spew? You latched on to this because you hate Latinos and now you have nowhere to go because Jamiel was ki*led because he was in a gang.

    Jamiel's murder had nothing to do with your "press 1 for English" so move along, sicko. You just proved how right perople are about complaining that hate groups used this grief-stricen family for their own hating agendas. Is this about Jamiel or yourself you home grown cracker jackblank.

  21. the silent MR .G


  22. TheTruth

    Hey SMQ, I wouldn't blankume that SenorGringo is a white, or "cracker" as you put it. There are many black residents that have used this murder against Jamiel to further their anti-illegal agenda, which is fine. I think that there are strong points against illegal aliens, but as it relates to gangs in LA, the illegal alien argument is very weak. As weak as saying that Jamiel was ki*led over race – which we now know was not true.

  23. JDog

    Alex Alonso is a wealth of information for gang motives and activity. The more people like him working to shed light on the gangs and the reasons they do it and understanding and helping them find better outlets the quicker the gang issue will be rectified. You can just expect to stamp it out with by bullying them and having gang injunctions, that will just make them more determined.

  24. Sideshowbob

    I knew this kid Espinoza personally. He was in custody of the L.A. County probation department in early 2006 when i worked at Central Juvenile Hall. When i first found out that it was him who had committed this murder i never believed for a second that he solely targeted this kid because of his skin color..If you ever had a chance to talk to Pedro espinoza personally you would see a lost, heavily entrenched gangmember who had so much love for his gang and so much hatred for any Blood gangmember…I personally remember asking him why he liked gangbanging so much and the first he told me was the love he felt when he was in the hood, he stated " i get this feeling like damn just everybody is there etc…"…..i thought that was really f#@$ked up that this kid felt so much love from something so negative….anyway just thought i'd share my experience with you all…..I know this may sound a little f#@$ked up to hear but Epinoza, as i would call him, had respect for me always even though i was law enforcement the kid had respect ….but damn he had so much hatred for blood gangmembers it was scary….

  25. SMQ

    Very interesting account of Espinoza and first we have describing him at all. Judging from Jamiel's My Space page that Alex Alonso has written about, I would have to say the feeling was mutual there. I'm even more convinced that someone has to reach out to both gangs and arrange for a truce. It can happen, it has happened before, and I hope it happens fast.

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