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David Carrillo is a former gang member who has been out for several years now. He was able to turn his life around but not without a lot of time and effort. Today he is successful at his chosen employment, and has covered his gang tattoos with artwork copied from his grandfather who is a famous painter. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
David Carrillo is a former gang member who has been out for several years now. He was able to turn his life around but not without a lot of time and effort. Today he is successful at his chosen employment, and has covered his gang tattoos with artwork copied from his grandfather who is a famous painter. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

CRIME

After leaving the game behind, ex-gangster shines light on the underworld Add to ...

People think a gang is not organized, but it’s really organized. Especially if you have the right mentality. It’s the same as a pyramid, almost, so if you want to move up, you really gotta fight your way. Out of each [ringleader] was five guys, then another five guys under each of them. On top of this, there was always one guy that we listened to. And he was the word. One of the guys from L.A.

The good thing is, a lot of the guys had respect. They knew what their role was, what their position was, what they can say, what they can’t say.

The strategy that we put in place worked really well. If you have five guys, let’s say, “You guys are on this side, five other guys on this side, five other guys on this side of the city. Do your thing. Don’t tell me who you’re selling to, that’s not my business, I just want you to come back with the money.” And there was a certain percentage we had to wire back to the main guys.

Every penny was accounted for. In the same way you look at a business: Let’s look at our demographics. Who’s our competition? How’s their product compared to ours? Let’s run a sale: Buy one, get one free. Let’s bring business. Obviously at that point I didn’t talk that way, but it’s the same mentality.

I was in a good place, I was happy where I was. I saved some money, but I knew it was bad money and it was hard to launder, it was like ‘what do you do with it?’ You start taking everybody out to eat. I would take 10 guys with me almost every day to lunch and dinner. You know ‘You guys roll with me, you guys are going to be treated good.’ And they would do anything for me, that’s for sure. They always had my back. A lot of the money was also spent on alcohol and cocaine. I had my own batch just for myself. I would do roughly three grams of cocaine a day.

Violence and guns

We wanted to expand our turf, so we’d go to areas that we weren’t welcomed in and we’d fight. Everyone had machetes and baseball bats. Guys got half their limb chopped off, got two-by-fours across the face. One guy got slashed in his head and got about 200 stitches. My friend got stabbed 16 times and survived to tell the story. I got stabbed in my back with a Rambo knife – took a nice chunk of meat out. I’ve been hit with baseball bats. Cracked ribs, hit with a metal tube in my skull.

It was really hard to find guns back then. It was ridiculous hard. And they were expensive. Mine cost $550 for a 9mm. Nowadays, apparently, they go for like a hundred bucks. And everybody has one.

One time, before we had our own gang, we had a big huge fight in a park. And one of the most highly respected guys, this Latino guy that went to our school, was sitting at a bench, wearing sunglasses, with his arms crossed. We’re all running around fighting with everybody and this guy was just chilling. Maybe 20 minutes pass by and some Asian dude just walks up to him, points a knife at his face and goes, “You’re gonna die.” The Latino guy didn’t even bother looking at him, he just looked away. The Asian guy goes, “You wanna fight? ‘Cause I’m gonna kick your ass.” The Latino guy stands up and grabs his gun from his pocket and shoots it in the air. Everybody ran away. I was hiding for my life, like, “Holy shit, he pulled out his gun.” That was the highest level of respect, “Okay, you’ve got a gun – okay, sorry, my bad, we’ll walk away.”

Getting out of the lifestyle

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