By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
He played it low-key. Wearing a red bandanna in his back pocket, he concluded, was advertising to the cops and other gangs. He didn't need to do that; he already had a name. "I didn't need to be letting people know 'I'm a gangster--stay away.' They already knew it."
But things had changed while Antonio was in Lookout. The Mexican boys weren't as welcome in the black Park Hill gang anymore. Back before Antonio got locked up, he, Pancho and Danny had referred to themselves as the Deuce-Seven in honor of the house at 2727 California. They'd even tattooed their arms with "Deuce-Seven," under which they wrote "CMG," followed by "Bloods."
Now the CMG was getting too big. "No one knew anybody else," he recalls. "There was no way to get everybody together." Small groups were breaking off, forming their own subsets under the umbrella of CMG Bloods, or B-dogs, as they called themselves.
So Antonio, Pancho and Danny did the same thing. Like the rest of the gangs, the members of the Deuce-Seven made their money selling drugs. And when they weren't selling drugs, they were robbing each other. It wasn't just fighting with the Crips or the Inca Boys, or whatever other group they came in contact with. They were even robbed a couple of times by other Bloods... friends of the friends who'd brought them into the gang in the first place.
"It got worked out," Antonio says. "I mean, it was all dirty money, anyway. It wasn't like whatever we had belonged to us. So we weren't going to go kill some other Bloods over money we had taken from somebody else."
Although the house at 2727 California was ransacked a couple of times and shot at more frequently, they didn't worry. Until one night, when the violence boiled over a few minutes after the boys left to visit their uncle, Jose Martinez.
Their sister, Raquel, was alone in the house with her newborn daughter, Danielle. She was walking down the stairs with the baby when a gunman in a car outside sprayed the house with an automatic weapon, sending bullets and bits of wood, plaster and glass flying inside.
Theresa arrived home a few minutes before her sons. Police cars surrounded the block. There was a neat line of bullet holes stitched across the front of the house above the porch awning. It was a miracle that neither Raquel nor the baby had been hit.
Danny and Antonio seethed. They knew the police wouldn't even look for whoever had done this; they'd never found whoever had shot their Uncle Jimmy a couple of years earlier. Instead the family was told that if someone shot at their house again, the property would be seized as a public nuisance.
The boys were plotting their revenge when Theresa confronted them. "There will be no retribution," she said. "You're the ones who joined the gang."
When her sons protested that they couldn't just let someone shoot up their house, she retorted, "What did you expect? This is the consequence for what you do...You put us all in danger. Jimmy. Raquel. Danielle."
Remembering this, Antonio pauses. "We felt bad, knowing we brought this on our family. We were doing a lot more to our mom than we realized.
"I mean, we were used to her going into a rage about the things we were doing. She'd hit us and throw things and break them...and we'd just say, 'You're being silly, breaking your own shit when there's nothin' you can do about it. It's already happened.' We were glad that she had straightened her own life out, that she was going in the right direction, taking care of herself. But me? I was too far gone to listen."
Theresa recognized that, and she'd had enough. "That's it. That's it," she said. "I'm getting rid of the house." No amount of pleading from her sons could change her mind.
Once again, 2727 California was closed up. While Theresa moved into her own apartment, the boys went searching for a place of their own. Antonio wanted to live near the Career Education Center so he could walk to school. When they found a place, it seemed like a sign.
The address: 2727 Clay Street.
Not that they always stayed there. "We lived the high life. Money, ho's and clothes," Antonio remembers. "We stayed, sometimes for several days at a time, in the presidential suites of Denver's best hotels. We'd be drunk and high the whole time...They didn't care who we were. Our money was green, and we paid for everything in cash."
Their neighbors on Clay cared. They called the cops and their city councilwoman.
"They didn't like all these young guys, who didn't seem to have jobs but drove nice cars and sat in the backyard talking on cellular phones," Antonio recalls. "We weren't doing nothin' wrong. I mean, we weren't dealin' drugs out of the house. We weren't shooting anybody in the front yard or the backyard.
"What I think they really didn't like was all these black guys, some of them pretty obviously gang members, comin' over to visit."