Dealing With the Devil

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

Alejandro fired the assault rifle, Quintana said. He himself had pointed the handgun, but the clip fell out before he could shoot. That clip had been found at the scene.

At Alejandro Ornelas's trial, Richardson sits within reach of the SKS assault rifle that's been marked as People's Exhibit 38. Pinned to the detective's tie is a small, gold figurine: an angel given to him by Venus's family as thanks for his efforts in catching the killer of Angel's mother.

"There's no question Sam Quintana's motivation was the possibility of the death penalty in not one, but two murders," Sargent tells the jury. "He also told us that his conscience was bothering him."

The prosecutor knows that as bad as his witness will appear to the jurors, he must make the defendant look worse. No angels for witnesses... deals with the devil. He contrasts the image of Quintana wrestling with his conscience and Ornelas bragging that he'd "smoked the bitch" when Ornelas didn't even know who she was.

Sargent warns the jurors that during this trial, they will hear about the "ugly side of life...I don't expect you to like it, but you'll be exposed to a world where someone can kill an innocent nineteen-year-old mother of a little boy and not be ashamed."

Alejandro Ornelas scowls but doesn't look up as Enwall objects to the prosecutor's characterization of his client.

Spring 1998
"BOOOOM!" A young white man emerges from the back of Mixed Up Creations, a Colfax Avenue T-shirt shop, to greet Antonio. After a brief flurry of hand jive, they get down to business.

"I like this...and this," the store's owner says, looking through one of Antonio's drawing portfolios. A sleepy-eyed fish. A cluster of mushrooms reminiscent of the dancing ones in Fantasia, except these are the hallucinogenic kind. Big-breasted, scantily clad comic-book women. Hip-hop characters.

"You ought to do this one," Antonio says. It's a gangbanger with a smoking .45-caliber handgun.

The shop owner shakes his head. "I don't want to sell violent T-shirts to kids."

"Then I suppose you won't want this one?" Antonio says, and laughs. Another alien-looking gangster, this one holding an AK-47 assault rifle.

The shop owner turns the page to a pencil drawing of two hands templed in prayer. "Jesus sells good in the ghetto," Antonio suggests. "Everybody's lookin' for the Lord in the ghetto."

Instead they settle on a skateboard/snowboard character for a new line of T-shirts. Antonio tells the store's owner to be expecting an invitation to a party when he graduates from college in June. "I'll be leaving a couple days later," he says. "A friend's goin' to set me up in a new tattoo shop."

The party will be at 2727 California.
"Sounds cool, Boom," the shop owner says. In this setting, the nickname carries no threat. It's not Boom the gangster but Boom the artist.

When Antonio got out of Lookout, he went to live with his aunt and grandmother in Westminster. He enrolled in high school there, only to find that the school wouldn't accept any credits from the classes he'd attended so religiously at Lookout. He'd have to start where he left off. But even that wasn't enough to deter him.

Then one of the metro gang-unit officers spotted him in class. "Did you know that you've got a notorious gang member sitting here?" he asked the students. "This is Boom."

Soon after, Antonio's mother was notified that he'd have to withdraw from school. Although Antonio hadn't done anything wrong, school authorities said they had an obligation to protect the other students. If a rival gang found out Antonio was there, they might try to shoot him and hit an innocent bystander in the process.

It seemed so unfair. Antonio was a good student, got good grades, followed the school rules. To Theresa, this was just another way the system had of trying to force gang members out of the mainstream. The further they fell behind at school, the more likely they were to drop out and be left with nothing but gangbanging. Like Danny.

Antonio wasn't so easy to get rid of, however. He moved back to 2727 California--Danny was living there now, along with Raquel and Theresa--and enrolled in the Denver Public School's Career Education Center, an alternative school that stresses vocational education.

"Being locked up made me smarter," he explains. "I didn't like having to knock on the door to be let out to go to the bathroom. I didn't like other people making decisions for me. I knew that if I went to prison, I would die or become worse than I already was to survive. I'd have to do so many crimes in prison, they'd never let me out."

Antonio was smarter, but he was no saint. He wanted to make money, and the only way he knew how was by selling drugs. Since he was still in a gang, it would be easy. But he decided he wouldn't "shoot someone for no reason," he remembers; it drew too much attention from the police.

"Now, if you're my homeboy and someone is giving you trouble, then I have nothing better to do than shoot someone for you," he adds. "Or I'd shoot you if you threatened me. But I stopped doing stupid things, like violence just for the sake of violence."

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