By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
part 2 of 2
Orlando could have gone to Denver's Emily Griffith Opportunity School to get his GED, Will says. But, she says, he was reluctant to do so. "At that time he was voicing a desire to stay away from gang influence," says Will. "He said gang members went there." Orlando nixed the Community College of Denver and Aurora Community College for the same reason, she says. Arapahoe Community College, he decided, would be a better bet, because it was farther away, in Littleton, out of the mainstream. So Will arranged for him to enroll in remedial classes there.
But Orlando didn't stick with it. "I think he only went to a couple of classes," acknowledges Will. For one thing, she claims, he was "a fish out of water" among his suburban-reared classmates. For another, she admits, "I don't think he was mentally in a place where he was prepared to tackle that. I don't think he realized that until he got into it."
In the meantime, Will says, "Operation Reconstruction was born, and he began working with them."
Operation Reconstruction, Barry Frye's anti-violence program, was designed to provide alternatives to gang members and divert them from crime. Funded in large part by the Gary Williams Energy Corporation and its associated Piton Foundation and directed by Frye, the group's aim was to provide "cultural education" and jobs to black youths. Even the organizers admitted it was a high-risk venture, primarily because they never demanded that participants renounce their allegiance to gangs. Orlando's old friend Michael Asberry was placed on the board of directors, and Orlando, according to Frye, was given a paid job organizing community events and participation. Many of the gang members were put to work rehabbing the old May D&F building in downtown Denver.
The most controversial aspect of the program--a project called "My Hood"--never really got under way, says Rich Rainaldi, a spokesman for the Piton Foundation. Under that proposal, Cellular One planned to provide cellular phones to gang members that could be used to dispel rumors and improve communication when they patrolled their neighborhoods. "The public didn't approve of gang members talking to each other," Frye says. "They thought they'd be using them to make drug deals." After hundreds of complaints were registered, Cellular One withdrew its offer and took back the phones.
More bad publicity followed when first Orlando and then Asberry were arrested. Orlando was jailed in February 1994 after reportedly resisting arrest during a routine traffic stop by an Aurora officer.
Three months later Asberry was busted for possession of $300 worth of crack cocaine. In a newspaper interview following that arrest, Frye defended Asberry as "a positive leader who wants to make positive change in the community."
It was about that time that the Gary Williams Energy Corporation withdrew its funding for the jobs portion of the program. "It was a resource issue," Rainaldi says. "We couldn't fund them anymore, and we had no more meaningful work for them." The corporation agreed, though, to continue funding the organization's after-school "Cultural Corner," a program in which young black children are taught about their heritage. "Barry," Rainaldi says, "made the decision to focus on the younger children."
But there is a rumor--rampant among police, gang members and other gang intervention groups--that Frye had personal reasons for shifting the focus away from gang members. Orlando and Asberry, says a Denver officer, "kicked the shit out of Barry Frye" in a dispute over money. "Barry was legit, but Orlando would sit home and do nothing, then go down there on Friday and try to get his paycheck. Barry wouldn't [give him the money], because he was trying to help them. An informant told me they knocked [Frye] out."
Frye denies the incident ever occurred. "That's false information," he says. "It's not true." Frye claims that both Asberry and Orlando left the group on good terms and that they departed only because the jobs program had been eliminated.
Despite his departure from Operation Reconstruction, Orlando continued to claim that he was intent on getting out of the gang business. The cops, however, remained skeptical.
"We'd still see him around places where there were going to be problems, so I don't believe he was trying to get out," says Aurora police sergeant Tim Genaro. "There are certain gathering spots, certain streets and parks, where they congregate. If you want to get out of gangs, you're not going to go places where the gangs are. He was still doing that, as far as I'm concerned.
"There were times when I remember him saying he was going to get out," Genaro continues. "But I hear that a lot. After a bad incident, I think they always think about it. There are very few times it'll stick. The problem with getting out is that you might have that intention, but the rest of the players don't know what your intentions are. All they know is what you were in the past. You're still in the mix, as far as they're concerned."
And Orlando clearly was still mixing it up in January 1995, when he shot another gang member in the leg on East 16th Avenue in Aurora. "He claimed it was self-defense, and the way it looked, that held up," Genaro says. "He said he was defending himself against other gang members." Orlando wasn't charged in the incident.