Dealing With the Devil

When the Deuce-Seven Bloods went hunting for a snitch, they shot Venus Montoya instead.

Although the prosecution can't bring up the defendant's past, the defense is bound by no such restrictions regarding witnesses. During cross-examination, Enwall points out that Quintana's first felony was in 1992 for assault with a deadly weapon. He hammers away, trying to get Quintana to admit that he was the one carrying the assault rifle. Quintana's deal isn't just that he has to testify truthfully; he also can't be the one who shot Venus or stabbed Brandy DuVall. Otherwise, the deal is off.

But Quintana won't budge. "I'm not lying, sir."
After Quintana steps down, Richardson is called to the stand. Informants have reported that a "hit" was put out on the detective while he was investigating the case. He's spent a good part of the trial staring down Ornelas family members and supporters who've tried to stare down the prosecution's witnesses.

The detective recounts how he caught Ornelas in 57 lies over several interviews. The defendant denied having anything to do with the killing, he testifies, but also complained about Salvino Martinez being such a good friend of the police.

Salvino had pulled a "gauge," a shotgun, on his sister and blasted his mother's home, Ornelas told Richardson. "Salvino shoots at us and nothin' happens...All the bullet holes in my mama's house are from him."

Reading from a transcript of one interview, Richardson recalls how he told the defendant he knew he was lying: "You're sinking, Alejandro."

"I'm not lying," the defendant had protested. "I was not the triggerman, and I don't know nothin' about it."

Late Spring 1998
Antonio sits at a drawing table in his garden-level apartment. The shades are drawn, and the only light is the lamp that illuminates his work.

He rubs his face as if he could wipe away the stress he feels when he thinks about his brother and the others. "When I was a youngster, I didn't care a lot about what happened to me. I didn't think about how my grandmother and my mother would miss me if I died or went to prison.

"But sitting in that cell, I realized that I did care. I didn't want to spend my life in prison. I didn't want my children or my mother to have to visit me there. I didn't want to die."

Still, stopping was much harder than starting. Antonio was still a Deuce-Seven, and even though he knew Danny and Pancho would back him up, they couldn't always be around. Antonio found himself constantly looking over his shoulder.

After he'd bonded out of jail on the gun charge, he moved in with his mother. There he was joined by his first cousin, Sammy Quintana Jr., whose parents had divorced.

The Quintanas had tried hard to get their children away from the old neighborhood, to give them the best of everything. Sammy Jr. was a soccer star and a member of the all-city marching band. But he still ended up in a gang.

"That was, of course, all our fault: 'If Danny and Antonio had left him alone, he would have been okay,'" says Antonio. "But Sammy was his own fault. We didn't even know it when he first got into a gang. He was selling drugs and doing a lot of acid with his high-school buddies out in the suburbs.

"Then he takes a shot at somebody in a car over in Bear Valley. Gets probation, then gets caught with a gun and does ten months in Buena Vista. This is all long before he starts hangin' with us...but it's our fault. Then his dad kicked him out of the house, and he had nowhere else to go, so he moved in with Mom and me."

Because Sammy was family, he was allowed into the Deuce-Seven without the usual pain of getting "beat in." He liked the trappings of gangbanging--the gold chains, the red shirts, pants and sneakers--that the others had mostly grown out of. "He wanted everyone to know he was a B-dog," Antonio remembers. "A violent gangster."

The Deuce-Seven had begun to attract other Hispanic Bloods who felt out of place with the black sets. Many were related to the original members: Danny, Antonio and Pancho. David and Maurice Warren, more weekend warriors than hardcore gang members, were cousins of Pancho's.

Frank Vigil Jr. was just a kid, like they had been, when he asked to be let in. "We didn't encourage him," Antonio says. "In fact, we tried to discourage him. But he was going to do it no matter what--better he do it with us, where we could kind of look out for him."

Other gang members came and went--sometimes not of their own accord, like Alejandro Ornelas.

"Alejandro was a friend of a friend," Antonio recalls. "He got sent to Lookout after I got out...two years on a manslaughter rap. Some Crips jumped out of a car and started chasing him down an alley, so he smoked one of them. The Crips originally thought it was me that did it. They was callin' and sayin' what they were going to do, and I was like, 'Yeah, whatever.' So I wanted to meet him when he got out."

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