Jamiel Shaw’s gang association made him a target for murder, not race
By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
May 9, 2008
LOS 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 exhibiting 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 received 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.
When the murder was reported in the local news, Jamiel was characterized as the son 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, including 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 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 percent 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. 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 LA Swans 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 financial 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:
“IM A TRU G ND U DONT NEED TA KNO DA ALPHABETS TA B – SABG!! WUT DO U TELL A BITcKH WIT 2 BLAcK EYEs……..NUTH N SMUG U ALREADY TWIcKE!! 30k..eK AIM TRAKKBOIZ”
- “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.