By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
By the time the boys got back to Denver, the gangs were here, too. And they started looking good when Theresa moved back home, hooked on drugs. "Life got really shitty," Antonio says. "She'd make dinner and clean the house, but that was about it. I realized that if I wanted something, I was going to have to get it on my own."
A psychologist would one day say that Antonio got involved in gangs because of repressed anger over his mother abandoning him. "That wasn't true," he says. "She was absent a lot of it, but we made our own choices, because it seemed like fun. By the time she knew what was going on, we were too far gone. I was like any other thirteen- or fourteen-year-old--you couldn't tell me shit. She'd try to tell us that what we were doing was wrong. But I was like, 'You ain't been livin' right all your life. Don't tell me how to live mine.'"
Gang activity was still pretty loose, Antonio remembers. "The neighborhoods in Denver weren't saturated with gangs, or at least they weren't in control. They were pretty scattered, even on the east side and Park Hill. Fuller Park was the only really established gang territory." Park Hill wasn't "consolidated" by the CMG Bloods until 1987.
That was the year that Danny and Antonio officially joined the gang. But because their sister was dating a Blood and because they were "Mexican kids," they'd already been having constant run-ins with the older Crips and younger Crip wannabes.
The cops were of no help. "They wrote us off," Antonio says bitterly. "The police knew I was in trouble when I was twelve, but none of the motherfuckers would help. Not an offer of a ride. No one said, 'Hey, I'll watch your back so you can get to school and back home safe.'"
Antonio shrugs. It probably wouldn't have made a difference, "but they didn't even try. If they had tried, then maybe in some later year, I would have been able to say, 'Yeah, there are some who cared.' But I can't."
The way he explains it, he practically joined the Bloods out of spite. When he was twelve, Antonio's favorite football player was Brian Bozworth, who played for the University of Oklahoma. The school's colors were white and red.
For Christmas that year, a relative bought him a red jersey with Bozworth's number on it. He proudly wore it to school. "The Crips were all over me because I liked a particular player who went to a school that wore the color red," he recalls. "I decided, 'Too bad.' I didn't feel like I should have to explain why I was wearing a Brian Bozworth shirt. I told them, 'Fuck you, I don't like you anyway.'"
After that, joining the Bloods and wearing a red bandanna was easy.
"When she found out we were in a gang, Mom freaked out," Antonio remembers. "But we had been around drugs and guns and crime all of our lives, except when we were with Bill. But she got scared, 'cause now we were in it. She was terrified that her sons were now part of all this."
Antonio's mom wasn't the only one who worried. Their cousin, Sammy Quintana, was no longer allowed to visit or spend the night. His parents had built a nice, comfortable life for themselves and their kids, and they didn't want Sammy, a soccer star at school, hanging around with troublemakers.
One day, Sam Quintana Sr. gave Danny and Antonio a warning. "If I ever see you at my jail, you better act like you don't know me. Because that's where you're headed."
If they didn't have Sammy for company anymore, the brothers found someone they liked even better: Francisco Martinez. "He liked hanging around us because girls were always coming over to see Raquel or me and Danny," Antonio says. "He hardly ever went home. Sometimes his mom would get the police to pick him up. He'd go home only long enough to shower, change his clothes, and then he'd be right back.
"He was always straight up with me and Danny. He would tell you exactly what he thought and never lied." Antonio reconsiders. "Except to girls."
The brothers never begrudged Sammy all his advantages. "But we had nothing better to do than be bad," Antonio says, then laughs. Even his heroes weren't the regular sort. "I used to tell my mom that I wanted to grow up to be a hit man. I was fascinated with the whole gangster life. I read books about Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Sam Giancanna and Carlos Gambino.
"They were my idols. But I wasn't Italian, so I couldn't be in the Mob. I did the next closest thing. I joined a street gang."
Antonio and Danny had been in the gang only two weeks when they were given their first gun, a .22 caliber pistol. "We convinced them that we were willin' to use it. And they were just as enthused--'Hey, some juveniles willin' to shoot.' The violence in Denver was just starting to surface. I think we had a lot to do with that."