By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
But Ornelas wasn't free more than a few days before he got caught with a gun on school property and sentenced to a year in federal prison. When he got out, he aligned himself with the Deuce-Seven and was soon joined by his older brother, Gerard.
"The problem for a lot of guys who want to be in a gang is, they can't handle the stress and the danger," Antonio says. "The Ornelas brothers were more like us. No fear. And they were willing to be as down and violent as us."
Antonio was still going to school every day. The shotgun charge was dropped, but he was fighting the handgun charge from the arrest at 2727 Clay as well as two attempted-murder charges. "Some guys got shot at a car wash," he says. "They knew who the driver was and thought I was the shooter. I wasn't."
Although he had sworn off criminal activities, his reputation nearly got him kicked out of school. He credits Career Education Center vice principal Debbie Williams and commercial-art teacher Brad Vickers with keeping him in school.
Once word got out that the infamous Boom was no longer gangbanging, some other students tried to take advantage of that by trying to run him over with a car. "Fuck 'em," he says. "I wasn't hiding. I just wanted to go to school and be left alone.
"But I was still from the set, and some of my homeboys went over and fucked 'em up...Debbie Williams pulled me out of class and said, 'I hear you're with a gang' and that she wouldn't put up with it.
"I told her that I was a gang member when I woke up and when I went to sleep at night. That I was a gang member who goes to school and gets good grades, but I could not stop being a gang member. It's who I was. But that I wanted to stay out of trouble and stay in school."
Antonio rubs his face. "She could have suspended me--a lot of others would have. And I know it wasn't easy on her. A lot of the teachers didn't like me, not even my counselor. But she took a chance."
Vickers saw something special in Antonio, too. "He said, 'I'm not just blowing smoke up your ass...you got real talent,'" Antonio remembers. "What he said stuck with me, and I went from drawing pictures of gangsters blowing the heads off each other to commercial art."
The teacher's confidence in Antonio paid off when his work took first place in a regional commercial-art contest. "I always thought that maybe I had talent," he says. "But here was someone who knew what it took telling me that I could do it.
"He was the first person outside my family and my homeboys who ever tried to help me...Fact is, until him, all I ever got from the police and district attorneys was that I was a piece of shit...that I was going to be in prison or dead."
Antonio doesn't like to appear weak. He has to blink a few times and rub his face before he can go on. "I began thinking about tryin' to get into a good art school." He pauses again to blink. "I owe a lot to Ms. Williams and Mr. Vickers."
The attempted-murder charges were dropped after Antonio agreed to take a lie-detector test and passed it. He was given a deferred sentence on the gun charge on the condition that he leave Colorado for a year.
That was fine with Antonio, who hoped to go to art school in California.
In June 1993, Antonio Martinez finally graduated from high school. He considered it his revenge toward those who told him he'd never amount to anything, who had tried to keep him out of school.
"I had seen my name on walls and police papers that I would be dead before I was eighteen," he says. "But here I was, graduating from high school, and I was nineteen years old.
"I think it scared them--the cops and the DAs--because I had done so much shit, and here I was alive and doing just fine."
The final day of the Ornelas trial begins with the jury out of the courtroom while Gerard "G-Loc" Ornelas attempts to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in exchange for the murder charges being dropped.
Prosecutor Brian Boatwright angrily denounces the attempt as "gamesmanship... Obviously, we think this is ridiculous." The judge says he'll consider the matter and get back to the attorneys.
As Gerard Ornelas is led away, he steals a look at the well-dressed man who's back in the spectator gallery. The man gives him a thumbs-up and a smile. Gerard nods weakly and hobbles out of the courtroom. (He will later accept the plea agreement.)
The prosecution has a few issues of its own. Apparently, Alejandro Ornelas has told one of the deputies working security that if he's convicted, he plans to force them to shoot him. Told that they'd just zap him with his security belt, he smirked and said, "Not if the belt's not on."