Blood In, Blood Out

Danny Ray Lopez couldnít outrun his gang life or the police. Will his brother follow in his footsteps?

He wore red like it was the only hue in the world -- red shirts, red pants, red shoes, a red hat. His mother would ask him to at least tone it down. But he would respond, "Oh, Mom, it's just a color."

One day in 1993 he pulled a gun on a young Inca Boyz gang member. He took the boy's leather coat and threatened him.

Danny's family couldn't believe it. He'd spent a lot of time in juvenile detention growing up, but he wasn't violent. He had always been more likely to give a boy his own coat than to take one. They wondered if it was just some sort of gang initiation, a way of showing who had power in the neighborhood.

Danny Lopez's mug shot from '94.
Danny Lopez's mug shot from '94.
Dustin's mug shot from December.
Dustin's mug shot from December.

But it was also a felony for which he was arrested and prosecuted. And there was another charge for felony theft in Jefferson County, for a bicycle he'd stolen. This time Danny was in real trouble. The mug shot taken at the Jefferson County jail depicted a cold-eyed young man, hardly able to grow a thin moustache -- an image of what was to come.

His mother was devastated. She'd begged him to stay away from gangs. She blamed herself for not keeping a closer watch on his activities and friends. But he'd told her: "I am who I am. I can handle it, Mom. Don't you worry. Don't you never worry."

Now she couldn't help but worry.


Danny spent the next four years in prison. An "ugly" place, he told his family. A place where you went to bed at night to the sound of men screaming. A place rampant with disease and more drugs and violence than he'd ever encountered on the streets.

Danny and his father had never been close. But he wrote his father about life in prison, saying that he could not live "like an animal in a cage." When he got out, he swore, he'd never go back.

For the first two years, Barbara went to visit him regularly and often took Mariah. He wrote to his daughter and somehow always managed to send her a present on her birthday and at Christmas. But Barbara found him to be meaner, colder, with each passing month. He'd accuse her of sleeping around and ask why she didn't send him money, when he knew that she had none to spare.

Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. She stopped going. She wanted a future with a man who would do right by her and her child. A man not committed to gangs, a man with better prospects than prison walls or a hole in the ground. She hoped they would still be friends when he got out -- but that would be up to him.

Others in his family noticed the change in Danny, too. When Danny had gone into prison, he'd been a young gang member who might have made a lot of bad choices about his friends and actions, but none of it seemed too serious. Now he was more a gangster than he had ever been on the streets.

Had to be, he said. You had to be tough to survive in such a place. You had to fight, even if you ended up in the hole, locked down 23 hours out of every day. For protection from the other gangs, he let it be known that he was Deuce-Seven Blood, affiliated with other Bloods. But in 1997, his particular gang affiliation became a liability when seven members of the Deuce-Seven were arrested for the rape and murder of Brandy DuVall.

On the night of May 30, 1997, Brandy was waiting for the bus on South Federal Boulevard when several younger members of the Deuce-Seven got her into their car and took her to a home. Already there were Daniel Martinez, Francisco Martinez, Sammy Quintana and Frank Vigil.

Antonio Martinez, one of the other core members and founders of the Deuce-Seven, had left several hours earlier, upset with his brother and the others for continuing the downward spiral they were on. An aspiring artist, Antonio had given up the gangbanging life and was attending art school. But the others spent their lives getting drunk and committing crimes.

They may have known that the end was near. Lakewood police were looking at Quintana, as well as Alejandro Ornelas and his brother, Gerard, in the shooting death of nineteen-year-old Venus Montoya a year earlier. Francisco Martinez was the suspect in the shooting of another man in May. And Daniel Martinez was on the run from a court-ordered drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

The insanity of their lives caught up to Brandy DuVall that night. They raped and tortured her for three hours and then, as she pleaded to be let go, took her to the mountains west of Golden and stabbed her 28 times. Still alive, she was thrown down an embankment and left to die. Her body was discovered the next day by a man and his companion who had stopped to admire the scenery and instead saw her half-nude body lying beside a stream ("Dealing with the Devil," February 25-March 18 and May 27-June 3, 1999).

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