By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Antonio says this with pride. "Part of it was puttin' on a show. We were always smaller than other boys, but we would fight, and now we could back it up with a gun. We got a reputation as being willing to shoot."
Standing in the front yard of an old gang battle zone, Antonio strikes a gangster pose. "If you're not willin' to shoot, then get out of my face," he tells an imaginary enemy, "because I'll kill ya, and I don't care. I got nothin' going for me."
The boys were "beat in" to the gang after their first couple of drive-by shootings. "It was pretty mellow," Antonio says. "I didn't get the ass-whuppin' I should have and have given to others myself."
They already had their nicknames. "Bang and Boom, because that's the sound a gun makes," he says. "We'd already proved ourselves as soldiers, willing to be violent and 'down' for the cause. Willing to do dirt, including shoot people."
But there was more to it than gunplay. In California they'd seen older kids who had things--cars, money, girls--because they were dealing drugs. They wanted some of that for themselves and also to buy their mother the things she could never afford. Not that she'd take them once she knew the boys were in a gang.
The CMG leadership started giving the Martinez brothers drugs to deal. They defended their turf with bravado and bullets. "You could come buy from us," he says, "but otherwise, you were not welcome on our block. Everyone else was older and bigger, but the word was out that them little fuckin' Mexican kids had guns and would shoot.
"I wasn't stupid about it. I mean, I've seen guys who get all macho and shit and stand there in the middle of the fuckin' street, guns blazing away like they think they're fuckin' John Wayne or something. Those guys usually leave in an ambulance.
"I didn't want to get shot. I might have placed myself in the position to get shot, but when I heard a gun go off, I ducked--and lived to fight another day."
The brothers' reputation grew to the point that every time there was a shooting in the neighborhood, the police blamed it on Bang and Boom. "Sometimes it wasn't even us that did it," Antonio says and grins. "We kind of became established as 'the usual suspects.'"
It was all a big, dangerous game, and they were never caught. Until Easter Sunday 1989.
Raquel, Antonio and their mother went over to 2727 California to take their grandmother on a picnic; Danny was already living there most of the time. Pancho had dropped by, and he and Antonio were standing in the alley behind the house when they saw three Crips approaching.
The Crips usually knew better than to traipse through the boys' neighborhood. (These three later told police that they were late to a picnic themselves and taking a shortcut.) But to Antonio, they didn't seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere else. "They came lookin' for trouble--and they found it."
The boys flashed gang signs at each other. A challenge. The three Crips were older and bigger, and Danny was in the house. But the other two held their ground.
"They were talkin' shit," Antonio recalls, walking over to the side yard to re-enact the drama. "One put his hand under the baggy T-shirt he was wearing, up near his waistband, as if he had a gun.
"Well, I had a .45 stashed under the trash dumpster," he says, pointing to where a dumpster still stands. "So I bent over and got the gun and says, 'Yeah, muthafucka? Wassup? You think this is a game? Well, if you're carryin', pull your strap and make this a gunfight. I'd like that better.' They took off running."
One of the Crips was trying to climb over a fence when Antonio pointed the gun at him. "I didn't aim--I just let off a shot."
Antonio giggles at the memory. "He caught a hot one in the ass."
The police arrived and forced Antonio and Pancho to the ground, stepping on their necks to keep them from moving as they pressed shotguns against their skulls. They dragged Danny out of the house while photographers snapped away. Danny's photograph would appear on the front page of the Rocky Mountain News the next morning, even though the police had already released him by then.
Antonio and Pancho were not so lucky. "To me, I thought it was cool," Antonio says. "I didn't care about the arrest. I know it sounds stupid now, but I was excited that it was going to be on the news and everyone would know I shot a Crab."
It got less exciting fast when Antonio learned that he might be tried as an adult and could face as much as forty years in prison. "I thought gangs were cool," he says. "I got so involved, I was in so deep, that when it stopped being cool...there was no way out."
He stops. Watches a car with tinted windows drive past. Only after it's gone does he relax. "My mom and grandma prayed a lot for Danny and me."