Dealing With the Devil

Brandy DuVall went through hell before she died. She left no angels as witnesses.

Always in the past, she'd been able to talk to her kids. But now all they did was spout gang rhetoric at her. About corrupt cops shaking down gang members...the brotherhood of us-against-the-world mentality backed by guns that was particularly frightening when Theresa learned her boys had earned nicknames. Bang and Boom--'cause those are the sounds a gun makes.

Theresa realized she'd need help if she was going to fight the gangs for her sons. She began attending neighborhood meetings sponsored by the Reverend Leon Kelly, a former convict turned minister who was trying to educate the community about the gangs.

She says she went to every meeting through 1987 and quickly realized that everyone, including the police--especially the police--had no idea what to do about the problem. Except the one officer who stood up at a meeting and said the department's idea of a solution was to "round them up, put them in Mile High Stadium and shoot them."

It was a big joke, and some in the room even applauded. But Theresa was outraged. "Excuse me, but I'm the mother of two gang members," she said. "These people, these Bloods and Crips, moved into Denver and started recruiting our children with their money, and your solution is to corral and shoot them down?"

Los Angeles Police Department gang experts came to some of the meetings. They warned against going after the gangs so hard that they scattered to the suburbs. They were almost apologetic, Theresa remembers, about a California program that allowed deferred sentences for gang members provided they leave the state. Many of them had wound up in Denver. The L.A. cops urged everyone at the meetings to learn from their mistakes, to give the kids options and alternatives while they were still young. But Denver wasn't listening.

Theresa was often the only parent of gang members at the meetings--at least, the only one who would admit to it. She went to the homes of other parents whose children she knew to be at risk, but had doors--literally and figuratively--slammed in her face. She was ostracized in her own community: Her boys were gangsters, and other families didn't want their children tainted.

She moved to an apartment in Aurora, hoping the distance from 2727 California might make a difference. But the boys just drove to Park Hill. And Danny often stayed with his grandmother, who doted on her grandson.

Theresa searched her sons' rooms. When she found drugs, she flushed them down the toilet. When she found guns, she turned them over to Leon Kelly.

"Mom, you can't do that," the boys would complain.
"It's already done," she'd reply.
"Mom, you have to go back and get the gun from Reverend Kelly," they'd demand.

"No," she'd reply. "If you want it, you call him and ask for it back. The gun is gone. The drugs are gone."

But even Kelly disappointed her.
One day he posed with gang members for a photograph that ran on the front page of the Rocky Mountain News to illustrate a story on Denver's growing gang problem. All the other gang members had their faces covered to disguise their identity. But there was Antonio, thirteen years old, grinning like a Cheshire cat for all the world to see.

As she grew increasingly frustrated, Theresa began taking more chances. One day she went to the Locketts' house in Park Hill to look for her sons; the mother told her they were at a house three blocks away. As Theresa went up to that house, she saw a man being ushered out and money exchanging hands. She knew this was not a safe place to be, and she could see her sons and Pancho through the screen door.

"What the hell is going on?" she demanded, opening the door and walking in. One of the Locketts, his arms as big as hams, looked up in surprise from his chair. Crack cocaine was piled on a table in front of him; an assault rifle lay within easy reach. In fact, everywhere she looked there were guns.

"Let's go," she said to her boys and Francisco, ignoring Lockett's scowl.
"Mom...," her boys started to protest.
"Don't say a word," she replied grimly. "Go get in the car."

For all their nicknames and growing reputation, Theresa's boys weren't about to ignore their mother when she was that angry. They got in the car and let her drive them home.

When she got there, Theresa called the police and told them what she had seen. The Locketts were infamous. They'd already had one home seized under public-nuisance statutes for dealing crack. But the officer told her that while they were aware of the current situation, the police had rules they had to follow, and the Locketts didn't.

Theresa knew she was losing the war for her sons. Danny, in particular, believed and lived everything he was told by the older members of the CMG. They were family. The cops were the bad guys; women were "bitches" and "hos." Only Bloods could be trusted.

Finally, Theresa had heard enough and threw Danny out of the house. In the days that followed, she tried not to think about what he was doing, how he was surviving. Then one evening, Antonio came to her and said, "Mom, you have to go get him." Danny was living in a motel room on Colfax Avenue, a 9mm handgun on the nightstand, selling drugs for the gang; it was only a matter of time before the police or someone else got to him. Theresa wouldn't pick him up, but she told Antonio that Danny could come home.

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