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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 ...

My dad saw where I was heading and it was no good. He bought a ticket for me to go to Ecuador. I had two death wishes on me from different gangs. So I ended up leaving for three months. I came back with this totally different mentality. I wasn’t really interested any more. The first place I started working was Home Depot, working as a regular guy. And in six months, I became a department manager.

I got married and had my son at 19. I didn’t want my son to go through what I went through. I started working harder, for my career, something better for ourselves. I got into store managing. At about 21 years old, I had my daughter. I said, “Okay, we’ve gotta move from this area, because this is all bad.” We moved away from the neighbourhood.

It was hard. Because you’re trying and then they’ll pull you back in. There were so many times I backslid. Especially when I was stuck with money and needed to pay my rent. They’re like, “Well, you can take this little bag and sell it.” You’d just get back into it again and do that for a couple months and then say, “No, I don’t need this any more” and then leave. There’s always something they lure you back in with. It’s a lifestyle you get used to and it keeps calling you back. I didn’t really completely leave it till I was about 24, 25.

To this day, there’s still guys in it. Just the other day, I went to a club and I saw this guy I haven’t seen in 10 years, and he looked exactly the same. I’m like, “Let me guess, you’re still in it.” He’s like, “What do you want me to do? That’s my lifestyle.” I was just laughing. “You’re not going to change are you?” He’s like, “What am I going to change for? This is my life.”

Since leaving gang life, David Carrillo has become a motivational speaker, leading workshops on drug and gang prevention. Two years ago, his work earned him a community service award from the lieutenant-governor. Mr. Carrillo can be contacted at dncarrillo@yahoo.ca.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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