By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Even if Antonio had told on his brother, he wouldn't be saying anything new. Although everyone loved Danny, they all knew he was a troublemaker.
"I used to steal Playboy from my stepfather," says Antonio. "I was only six or maybe seven." He laughs. "I always had a thing for naked women." He hid the magazines under a toy box.
Antonio came home from school one day and heard his mother talking to one of her friends on the telephone. He realized she'd found the magazines while cleaning his room. "It has to be Danny," he heard her say. "He's girl-crazy."
Danny never denied it. "All of our lives we took the blame for each other," Antonio says. "We got into trouble together, and we either got out of trouble together, or we didn't get out of trouble, period."
Except this time. Thinking about where his brother is now, awaiting trial for first-degree murder, Antonio grows silent. Stepping away from the gang life when he saw the "craziness" escalating was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do. Now he's tormented by the thought that if he'd stayed at Uncle Joe's that night, he might have saved them all. Maybe. Maybe not.
Growing up, Danny always wanted to be the leader. "He was charismatic and a good athlete," Antonio recalls. "I always wanted to be with him. We'd be together so much that sometimes people thought we were twins."
Although that was fine with Antonio, it was important to Danny that people knew he was the older of the two--that Antonio was his little brother, a tagalong.
When their mom and Bill broke up, Antonio was lost. "He was the only dad I knew," he says. "I liked him. But he had us call him 'Bill.' He said, 'They know who their father is.'
"One minute Bill was in my life. He was the guy who spanks you when you did something bad. The guy who buys you toys, who takes you fishing and sees that we have a place to live...Then he was gone, and I didn't seem him anymore. What kind of sense is that?"
With Bill gone, Danny became more than a big brother. Even though the boys were sent back to Denver to live with their father, Big Dan, who was living with his parents, Danny "was my father," Antonio says.
Antonio rarely spent any time with Big Dan. "He'd come by and get Danny. I guess it was because he was Danny 'Junior' and sort of knew him before him and mom split up. Me, I was just some kid his old lady had after she left him. In some ways it was depressing," he admits. "I used to wonder, 'How come I never get to go?'"
But on the rare occasion when their father took both boys, Antonio would usually wonder why he'd wanted to go so desperately. "It wasn't like we'd get to be with just him," he recalls. "There was always one of his girlfriends along, and she was always a bitch to the kids. Danny always seemed to have fun with him. But I had more fun with my grandma and grandpa."
And there was always his maternal grandmother at 2727 California to turn to. She spoiled the boys, who could do no wrong. The only things the boys didn't like was when she and other relatives would say mean things about their mother, how she wasn't a good mom. That made them cry.
Antonio looks at the house. He notes that the row of bullet holes made when a rival gang fired an assault rifle have been well-patched. "You can hardly tell where they were," he says. "Shit, we used to come out of the house some mornings and see a new hole and say, 'Damn. I never even heard the shot.' Guess we kind of got used to getting shot at."
Antonio's first experience with gangs came when they were still living in California. Danny was in a breakdancing group that competed once a week at the local skating rink and, as usual, Antonio would tag along to watch.
One weekend, their friends brought Willy, a black kid just out of juvenile hall. A red bandanna protruded from Willy's back pocket, but Antonio didn't know what it meant.
Another teen did, and he went to call some Crip friends. He told them there was a Blood in town.
A little while later several teenagers appeared in the parking lot. "They showed the security guard they had a gun, and he came in--didn't call the police--but told us, 'If you're smart, you'll stay inside.'"
But Willy was already outside, checking out the action. Realizing the spot he was in, he took off across the parking lot. "Someone let off a shot," Antonio says. It was his first taste of gunfire.
"Danny and me and our friends were scared," he recalls. "We didn't want to go outside, but we knew we would eventually have to leave, so we went together."
On the way home they ran across a terrorized but safe Willy. "I was thinking, 'Over a red rag? They'll come down here and shoot someone over the color of their bandanna? What kind of fuckin' sense does that make?'"