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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Encore Presentation: A Look at Gang Violence
Aired October 29, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, there's a war being fought on America's streets and the bad guys may have the upper hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven hundred thirty-one thousand gang members nationwide.
KING: Gangs, they're just not L.A.'s problem anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is spreading throughout the country. Violence is coming back. Homicides are going back up.
KING: They've killed thousands and keep recruiting thousands more. How and why and how can they be stopped?
Tonight, ride along with the law deep into the heart of gang territory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me a line. Give me a line right there. Keep them back. Step back.
KING: And meet former gang members, who live to tell about a deadly lifestyle that some call homegrown terrorism, as we go to the front lines of America's gang way next on LARRY KING LIVE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Good evening.
Street gangs are a popular topic on cop shows and in movies but he gang-banging subculture is more than mere fiction in some American cities. We'll talk to some young men who have experienced it firsthand in just a minute.
But first, watch this.
KING (voice-over): What you're looking at may appear like a war zone but it's not. This is Los Angeles, week after week across the country, young men being shot down on the streets. Some call it homegrown terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have 15 or 20 friends of mine they didn't even make it to the age of 16. KING: Most of the gang violence, experts say, is over turf battles and drug trafficking. How big is the problem?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 86,000 gang members that we know of in Los Angeles County.
KING: Their victims, sometimes just innocent children, and no one seems immune. In 2003, the sister of tennis champions Venue and Serena Williams, is shot to death by a reputed gang member just a mile from the playground where the Williams sisters learned the game.
Even the former police chief, Bernard Parks, became a victim, his granddaughter ambushed in a car, targeted by a gang member.
It's hardly a day goes by when there isn't a gang-related shooting in Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But everybody is running away from the gangs. We're not. We're running to these guys.
KING: Intervention workers do what they can but street gangs and their violence have spread like graffiti across America. But, law enforcement officials are determined to end it, yet generation after generation in cities where gang violence is all but invisible to outsiders, the beatings and killings continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody got to decide. Everybody, you know, hopes and wishes that all this comes to an end, you know what I mean but it's not going to come to an end, man, there's already just too many roots to it man.
KING: We have an outstanding lineup of guests throughout the next hour. You'll be meeting many people involved with gangs fighting the problem.
Let's start with Miguel Saenz, former member of the so-called Venus 13 gang, was shot seven times back in 1988, still carries one of the bullets in his chest cavity, was recently certified for gang intervention.
Devaughn Townshend is a 17-year-old former gang banger who just entered the Amer-I-Can Program. He has been in and out of custody at least ten times since he was 9 years old.
And, Jim Brown, if I have to tell you who he is, you have a problem, the NFL hall-of famer, maybe the greatest running back ever, director of the Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change, an organization devoted to stopping gang violence nationwide. How did you get involved in all this, Jim?
JIM BROWN, FORMER NFL RUNNING BACK: In 1980, Larry, I decided that the young men were killing each other at an astronomical number and I felt that because I had a pretty good reputation in the community I might be able to do something about it, started an organization. Our aim was to stop the killing and to upgrade our educational system in our high schools. KING: And you're working full-time with that?
BROWN: Ever since almost every day.
KING: We'll come back to you in a minute.
Miguel, the former member of the so-called Venus 13 gang why did you join a gang?
MIGUEL SAENZ, FMR. GANG MEMBER: Well, as a kid it was around me, I grew up, you know, living in the area. I have family members that were from V-13 and, you know, I just got caught up in it.
KING: Now, how did this thing happen to you? How did you get to be shot?
SAENZ: Oh, it happened like in '98. I was just walking down the street and got shot.
KING: Still a gang member?
SAENZ: Yes, I was still an active gang member at the time.
KING: Was it another gang member from another gang?
SAENZ: That's what they said.
KING: What do you do now?
SAENZ: Now, I'm a gang intervention worker.
SAENZ: I like assist younger gang members, at risk kids, youth, you know, to steer them away from the gangs, to let them know what I lived it ain't for them. You know, you could change.
KING: And this is full time for you?
KING: So, you're out on the streets every day?
KING: How important is that, Jim?
BROWN: Well, it's very important. He is working with Venus 2000, a really great group of interventionists down in Venus.
KING: What do interventionists do?
BROWN: Well, they engage gang members. They stop them from killing each other. They get them in educational programs. We have a life management skills program they get them into. And they develop communication so that retaliations won't happen. They also work very closely sometimes with law enforcement because Sheriff Baca is a very understanding law enforcement individual, so it's engagement that takes place mainly.
KING: Devaughn Townshend, 17-year-old former gang banger, who just entered the Amer-I-Can Program, in and out of custody at least ten times since nine years old, what did you do at nine?
DEVAUGHN TOWNSHEND, EX-GANG MEMBER: Violent crime, assault with a deadly weapon.
TOWNSHEND: It started off with an argument. A guy was disrespecting my sister and her friend. I had to be the cool one. I had to be the rough one. So, I felt that I should do something about it. And, he was bigger than me. I've always been little, so I decided to hit him with something.
KING: When did you join a gang?
TOWNSHEND: The age of 12.
KING: What gang?
TOWNSHEND: The Bloods (INAUDIBLE) Bloods. To get joined into a gang you have to get beat up or go kill somebody.
KING: What did you like about it?
TOWNSHEND: The group of friends I liked that. Since I had ignorance on my mind, I met a group of kids that had the same thing on their mind, so it seemed like we were pretty much on the same page.
KING: Hurt a lot of people?
TOWNSHEND: Yes, hurt a lot of people.
KING: What about your parents?
TOWNSHEND: Hurt them too.
KING: What finally changed for you?
TOWNSHEND: I had a child, age of...
KING: You are a father?
KING: At what age?
TOWNSHEND: Thirteen and it didn't really take that at first until I got a wake-up call. I kept getting incarcerated back and forth. This is not the life I want to live. I had to talk to myself basically.
KING: How many children do you have?
TOWNSHEND: I have two.
KING: And how old are you, 17?
KING: Do you live with their mother?
KING: Do you help support them?
KING: By doing what?
TOWNSHEND: Everything I can do, being young I'm limited to what I can do now but everything I can do, whether it's money, changing a diaper, doctor appointment.
KING: Do you like being a father?
TOWNSHEND: Love it.
KING: How did you get involved with Amer-I-Can?
TOWNSHEND: My father takes part in this program. He facilitates for the Amer-I-Can Program.
KING: Your father was also a gang member?
KING: Do you look at life as if -- do you feel hopeless sometimes?
TOWNSHEND: No, not sometimes.
KING: Look at all the burdens you have at 17.
TOWNSHEND: Don't feel hopeless though, you know. I have big dreams on becoming more than I am now, you know.
KING: What do you want to be?
TOWNSHEND: A writer. I write music.
KING: He got a shot, Miguel?
SAENZ: He could if he's willing to change.
KING: Jim? BROWN: Oh, he's got a great shot. His father is doing a great job, you know. Most African American fathers are not there and he's also with a great organization and he has a lot of people around him that's very positive, very strong.
KING: Thank you, Miguel. Thank you, Devaughn. Jim Brown will be back.
Lots more to come, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gets to a point where you go, "OK, I can only pick one gun to go after because they're going off everywhere around you."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know I hope there can be an ending to it but in all honesty I don't see no ending to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is a lot of the violence interrelated, are they killing each other?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
At one time we had ten feuds going on at the same time between 20 different gangs were feuding with each other.
KING: Do they catch a lot of them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We usually know who did it within a day.
KING: And, are there arrests and convictions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's arrests.
KING: Convictions are hard?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Convictions are a little bit more difficult.
KING: No witness comes forward?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even when they do they get intimidated so bad they either don't show up in court or they just know.
KING: So, the proverbial you can get away with murder?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know a lot of guys out here that have.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Joining us now here in Los Angeles, Tim Pearce and Kristina Ripatti. They're husband and wife LAPD officers, both assigned to South L.A. gang unit. By the way, I had the pleasure of riding along with that unit a couple of weeks back. You'll be seeing shots of that throughout the program.
Kristina was shot by a gang member earlier this summer and is paralyzed. She is in a wheelchair. Tim was on duty at the time of Kristina's shooting. And, joining us from Washington, Chief William Bratton, Chief of Police in Los Angeles. He's attending a major -- what's the conference you're attending chief?
CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum. We had 50 chiefs in from all over the country, ten mayors, and we're discussing the issue of crime. It's back and it's coming back and we need to get that message out. There's a gathering storm out there and a lot of it is generated by this issue of gang crime.
KING: Gang crime is nationwide?
BRATTON: Nationwide. It's certainly in Chicago and Los Angeles. We have much more of it. It accounts for 60 percent of our murders in Los Angeles and a significant part of our violent crime.
But, a lot of it also is the issue of just young people, a new generation of young people who are more violent than their predecessors, less under control, and we have a new wave of violence coming in this country and we need to wake up to it.
KING: Back with you in a minute.
Before their romance began, Tim and Kristina were police partners. Three years ago they were married. Seventeen months ago they had a child. And then on June 3rd, Kristina was shot by a robber her husband also believes had been a gang member. As a result, Kristina is now paralyzed from the chest down.
Where were you, Tim, when this happened?
TIM PEARCE, LAPD OFFICER: I was working in Watts. That's where I work on a nightly basis. I work the gang unit.
KING: You go out at night in those cars as I went a couple weeks ago and you patrol?
KING: And where were you, Kristina?
KRISTINA RIPATTI, LAPD OFFICER: I was working in Southwest Division.
KING: In a squad car? RIPATTI: Yes.
KING: How did this happen?
RIPATTI: My partner and I were on patrolling around and a guy ran right in front of our car and then ran over to the sidewalk. So, we decided to stop him. I got out of the car and approached him, told him to stop and he started to run. I chased him onto a really dark porch, which turned out to be his house.
He tried to get into the door. I grabbed onto him from behind and he pulled out a small .22 caliber revolver, which I had never seen. It wasn't in his hand. And, I had my hand up onto his shoulder and he shot me right high under the armpit which was the shot that paralyzed me.
KING: How did you hear about it, Tim?
PEARCE: I heard the help call on the radio.
KING: You came to her?
PEARCE: Oh, yes, yes. You know we would respond to any officer help call and I didn't know it was her at first and when I got off the freeway I got a call on my cell phone from her sergeant saying, "Tim, it was Kristina." And, I wasn't really surprised because she's a very proactive officer and it's only a matter of time before you get in a shooting doing the kind of work that she likes to do.
KING: Why didn't this turn you off? Why are you still an officer? Why didn't this -- "Hey, let's get out of this?"
PEARCE: You know this is -- we both love the job. We both love doing gang work and it's time well spend as a police officer because these guys are extremely dangerous and they terrorize our city. And, you know, I'm not going to leave that to somebody else to do it when I can do it myself.
KING: The suspect was killed I understand right by your partner?
RIPATTI: My partner killed him, yes.
KING: Do you have any hope about changing gang culture?
RIPATTI: You know what I always hope for that. When I was working that's what I, you know, was doing my part. As one officer, you know, you can only do so much but it's a huge, huge problem and getting out here and spreading the word like this helps a lot.
KING: Chief Bratton, how do you explain these kind of people, Tim and Kristina?
BRATTON: Well, Larry, you are privileged to be sitting across from, and your audience is privileged to listen to and see, two of the finest police officers I have ever met in my 35 years. They are not only great police officers but they are great people.
And, the good news is that I've got over 9,000, many of whom are just like them. They want to make a difference. They are making a difference. And, unfortunately, as Kristina has experienced, sometimes they pay a horrible price for their efforts.
KING: And this is a volunteer squad, right Tim?
KING: I mean you don't -- you can't be -- you don't have to be assigned into the gang area, you want to be in the gang area? PEARCE: Yes and there are a lot of officers just like us that that's what they -- that's their mission and they think it's time well spent doing police work and it is, so there's a lot of officers out there really hard charging every night and trying to stop this stuff but it's like plugging a dam with your fingers, you know. It's way bigger than us.
KING: Can you figure out why someone wants to be a gang member? I mean there's no life. There's no thought about tomorrow. There's no ambition. What do you get out of it?
PEARCE: Well, you know, where I work in Watts, it is multigenerational in a lot of ways. Some of them don't have a choice. They're raised in it. Their parents are from the gang. Their entire family is from the gang.
But the gang also seeks out weak individuals and they recruit them and they're looking for the companionship like Devaughn was saying. They're looking for opportunity. They're looking for status, you know. There's all kinds of reasons. There's hundreds of reasons why.
KING: It's never going to go away though?
KING: Are you still a police officer, Kristina?
RIPATTI: I'm still currently a police officer right now.
KING: How are you dealing with it?
RIPATTI: You know, it's one day at a time.
KING: You got a baby right?
RIPATTI: Yes, it's hard. It's definitely hard but, you know, I have my husband and the baby, a lot to live for, and I want to, you know, return to my life as normal as possible. And I'm, you know, pushing, doing everything I can to walk again. I want to run again, so it's -- you know I'm just driven to get up every morning and work out and get better.
KING: Bill, this is a different breed of cat, right?
BRATTON: If anybody can get it done, it will be Kristina. We have great hopes and we hope that she'll stay on the job with us. They are two extraordinary officers.
I'd point out since Kristina's shooting, which was unprovoked, we have had three other incidents in which Los Angeles police officers have been shot at unprovoked by gang members, including two within the last four days and then one two weeks ago in which an individual opened up an AK-47 on a traffic stop, severely wounding one officer and almost taking the life of the other.
So, what happens with these gang bangers is incredibly violent and it's fortunate that Los Angeles, which is very under policed, has such extraordinary police officers as represented by the two sitting there with you.
KING: Chief Bratton will be back with us. Thanks Tim and thanks Kristina.
Back with more on the gang story; and, you'll be seeing clips of me riding with people like Tim and Kristina doing what they do. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone held their breath as 10-year veteran officer Kristina Ripatti rolled down the lines of her brothers and sisters in arms saluting her.
Thirty-three-year-old Ripatti is paralyzed from the chest down after a bullet missed her body armor and struck her under the left arm severing her spinal cord. Kristina's 15-month-old little girl has no idea how close her mother came to dying on that night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the guys we talk to down here they've been in the gang since they were 11 years old. They start indoctrinating them when they're two and three years old. By the time they have their first police contact they're ten, eleven years old and they are well indoctrinated into the rules and the codes that they follow.
KING: It's entrenched right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They grow up in it. Right from the start they're taught the police are bad. They're taught, you know, like many occurrences I'll be driving down the street and some little kid will wave, "Hey, police" and the mom will jerk their arm and discipline them for saying hello to the police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're looking at the problem of gangs.
We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, William "Blinky" Rodriguez. He lost his 16-year-old son to gang violence and now heads up an organization that works to keep kids out of gangs.
And, Lateef Williams, a 27-year-old survivor himself of a gang shooting, fought back by the way by testifying against the guy who shot him.
What happened to your boy, Blinky?
WILLIAM RODRIGUEZ, SON KILLED IN GANG DRIVE-BY: Like many kids in Los Angeles now, they ain't looking for Freddy, Joey, they're looking for anybody and my kid was learning how to drive a manual stick shift and he came up -- some guys came up on him and they shot him and killed him.
KING: How old was he?
RODRIGUEZ: He was 16 years old.
KING: Was he in a gang?
RODRIGUEZ: I think he was beginning to look down that way. I had a short leash on all five of my sons and the allure, you know, when you look at the MTV gangsters, when you look at the culture, when you look at the societal will what's being promoted, you know, you begin to look. And he wasn't in because I would never allow that to happen.
KING: What happened to -- there were three people involved in that shooting, right?
KING: You testified?
RODRIGUEZ: I didn't testify but I really just because of my faith that I've always grown up on I believed that in looking at the trial and looking at the aftermath what could happen to me and my family.
I chose to forgive the three guys who murdered my son to their faces and one I asked for mercy for because I believed that through the course of the court proceedings that, in fact, he was also a victim of circumstances and he's home free now. The other two are doing life in prison.
KING: What's your organization?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, Communities in Schools is the stay in school program but it's far beyond that. We deal with street intervention. We deal with yellow tape protocol. We get called on by law enforcement to show up, knock down retaliation, help the mothers navigate.
KING: How do you make a living though?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, we have a non-profit organization, Communities in Schools.
KING: You get donations.
RODRIGUEZ: We get donations. We get funding from different public sector arenas.
KING: Lateef Williams, a 27-year-old survivor of a gang shooting, when were you -- how old were you when you were shot?
LATEEF WILLIAMS, SURVIVED GANG SHOOTING: It happened not that long ago.
KING: So you were an adult at the time?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes, I wasn't an adolescent or anything like that. It's just recent.
KING: You were a gang member?
WILLIAMS: No, I've never been a gang member.
KING: What happened to you? How did it happen?
WILLIAMS: Basically I was just on my way home at a red light giving a friend a ride home. A guy walked up on my automobile and just wanted to shoot. That was it.
KING: No reason?
WILLIAMS: No, he asked where -- what gang I was from. I told him I wasn't from any gang.
KING: Where were you shot?
WILLIAMS: I was shot multiple times in my leg and in my torso.
KING: Were you ever close to death?
WILLIAMS: Yes. I was basically in critical condition for two days.
KING: What happened to the other guy in the car?
WILLIAMS: He basically wasn't as wounded as critically as me. He was...
KING: Did you testify against those who shot?
KING: Just one guy right? WILLIAMS: Yes.
KING: What happened to him?
WILLIAMS: Basically now he's serving -- he's going to be in prison for the rest of his life and that was basically the only type of justice I can be able to exercise against him currently.
KING: Do you understand Blinky's forgiving it?
WILLIAMS: I understand his forgiving simply because, you know, hatred isn't what -- hatred wouldn't bring his son back. Even killing the person that say killed his son wouldn't bring him back. So, there's only so many things and so many ways that you can come at peace, come at peace with it inside, you know, or else it will, you know, eat you up.
KING: Think we can ever see the end of gangs?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that's a tall order. KING: Tall order.
RODRIGUEZ: But I think there definitely has to be a multi- pronged approach to dealing with the gang problem. You're talking about, in my opinion, and that's after the loss of a son, I think there's good and bad people from all levels of the socio and economic ladder. There's young lives out there being swayed the wrong way. There needs to be a lot more done.
I think law enforcement agrees. I've heard it said they can't arrest their way out of it. You can't just lock everybody up. It's not possible. There needs to be a multi-pronged approach, prevention, intervention, and suppression.
KING: Do you agree Lateef?
WILLIAMS: Yes. I definitely agree that, you know, all angles of the matter need to be hit and I believe that it needs to be definitely done at an aggressive way, whichever way possible because I honestly feel that if it isn't controlled and I believe that a lot of actual self policing within gang intervention from gangs themselves or else I believe the wrong innocent bystander is going to get killed. And it's going to be circumvented at a federal governmental level that we won't be able to control.
KING: Thank you both very much.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.
KING: William "Blinky" Rodriguez and Lateef Williams, two extraordinary Americans.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is new graffiti?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is fairly new graffiti that we have here. What's important here is the stuff we're seeing in it, it is showing that certain groups are pulling themselves together because they're in feud with one of the larger other gangs.
KING: This has meaning?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely. It has a lot of meaning. The main group itself is the east side hustler crips. And 91 is the one that painted it, but they're also aligning with 108 and down over here by the trash can, you'll see all these different numbers. Those are the different subsets of this gang and hard time hustlers that are near here. So it shows that they're all kind of aligning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, looking at gangs and the problem of gangs. Returning with us now from Washington, Chief William Bratton, chief of police Los Angeles, one of the better known police chiefs in America. Here in Los Angeles now, Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, the L.A. County sheriff and Rocky Dellgadillo, the Los Angeles city attorney and prosecutor. He by the way is a native of East Los Angeles, where gang violence has been a big problem for decades.
Sheriff D. Baca, 9,000 gang-related violent crimes in 2005 in Los Angeles County. How do you fight that?
SHERIFF LEROY D. BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Well, it's difficult. Of that 9,000, over 4,000 are murders. And each murder costs over $1 million to the taxpayers in the economy and the like. So we're looking at a half a billion dollars at least for gang-related murders.
KING: Are you undermanned?
BACA: Well, we're undermanned. Not only do we have only 23,000 cops protecting 10 million people, but we have a court system that is essentially gridlocked where when we finally catch them, put them on trial, that they plea bargain themselves to a lesser conviction and ultimately are serving less time. The jails are over-crowded.
KING: I'll ask Rocky about that in a minute. Chief Bratton, you were chief in New York, chief here. Which is worse, vis-a-vis gangs?
BRATTON: Most certainly Los Angeles. The gang problem in Los Angeles far surpasses anything that was going on in New York. New York had a different type of gang problem, much smaller, much more neighborhood focused. In the city of Los Angeles, we've got about 39,000 documented gang members. And this year we'll have about 225 gang-related murders. So the problem in Los Angeles is much more significant.
KING: You grew up in that neighborhood, Rocky, right?
ROCKY DELGADILLO, LOS ANGELES CITY ATTORNEY: I sure did.
KING: Why does this happen?
KING: ... Why do people want to harm each other?
DELGADILLO: Well, there are some big issues. It's poverty, it's broken education system, child abuse, domestic violence, 85 percent of convicted felons were abused when they were kids. Apathy, not to tell you, you know, people have their heads in the sands about what is not just a gang problem in Los Angeles, but is a nationwide crisis.
KING: Sheriff, what keeps you going? It looks like a losing fight.
BACA: What keeps us going is that we're building a better strategy and we go along. Rocky has done a number of injunctions throughout the city. The county of Los Angeles is involved in intervention programs. The sheriff's department and the LAPD are working closer than ever before. We are able to multiply our effectiveness because we're working in team configurations with task forces and the like. KING: Chief Bratton, the intervention, we'll talk more at it in a while, does it work?
BRATTON: Oh, it certainly does. You cannot just have the arrests component. You need intervention, you need focus on prevention. So the work that Blinky does and others like him, while it's controversial that the idea can a gang member truly turn their lives around, we have to try that approach. We cannot give up on the idea that intervention works.
Father Greg Boyle, who runs the Homeboy Industries over in East Los Angeles has certainly done a remarkable job as one of the more visible examples of that. The good news is actually that gang crime is down dramatically from what it was in the early 1990s. In the city of Los Angeles, in 1991, they had over 500 gang-related murders. This year we will have 215, 225 maybe.
KING: So something's working?
BRATTON: Some things are working. We've gotten better at it. But the problem still is a huge problem, and the concern we have the conference I'm attending in Washington D.C., the problem is spreading throughout the country. Violence is coming back. Homicides are going back up. While we've got them somewhat under control in Los Angeles, the rest of the country is experiencing an increase. That's why we're trying to spread the word that it's coming back.
KING: Rocky, isn't it hard to prosecute a lot of these cases? I was told when I was doing the ride around, it's tough to get the innocent citizen to testify. DELLGADIO: Absolutely. I mean, people do fear for their lives in these communities because the government there is a gangs, not us, not the police department.
But I do have to say in Los Angeles as the chief pointed out, there is teamwork between the sheriff, Sheriff Baca's been great, Chief Bratton and myself, teamwork. We're being tough, we're also getting smart. We're trying innovative new strategies to prevent kids from joining gangs in the very first place and then these injunctions have had a calming effect on crime in the neighborhoods where they are in place. Crime is down -- independent surveys have indicated this, that they're down anywhere from five percent in some places down to 50 percent in others.
KING: Chief Bratton, thanks, look forward to seeing you back here.
BRATTON: Thank you.
KING: And Rocky, good having you with us. And Sheriff Baca will remain into another segment. Jim Brown will be returning. Don't go away.
KING: Sheriff Baca remains with us. And returning now is Jim Brown, the NFL hall of famer, who voted to stopping gang violence nationwide at his Web site, is Amer-I-Can.org.
And joining us is Bo Taylor, former member of L.A.'s notorious Crips gang, now president and founder of Unity One. Unity One is what, Bo?
BO TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, UNITY ONE: Unity One is a gang intervention and prevention organization. It's dedicated to saving lives.
KING: Intervention means it does what?
TAYLOR: It goes out in the middle of the streets and deals with individuals, helping them in the transition from negative to positive in their lives.
KING: It's a proactive -- you approach them?
TAYLOR: Definitely. Oh, yes.
KING: Don't they kind of look at you as sort of don't bother me?
TAYLOR: No, actually, we've been doing it for 15 years, so pretty much everybody in L.A. County knows about us.
KING: You were a member of Crips?
TAYLOR: I -- you know what, I want to dispel something. I was involved in a lifestyle when I was a child, a kid, something that wasn't in my best interest. And I grew up without a father in my life. So I didn't have all the tools to make the best decisions in my life as a young person.
However, I did end up going into the military and got an honorable discharge, came home. And a lot of the opportunities weren't there. I started blaming the system and blaming, you know, white people and blaming this and blaming that. I hated the police. But it was my own ignorance. I never understood what taking responsibility was for myself.
I don't even like to stereotype and say gang members. I say they're disenfranchised youth. They don't really have all the tools to make the right decisions that's necessary in today's society, and they don't fully understand the system.
KING: Sheriff, what do you think of that?
BACA: Well, I think that everybody has their own explanation in their family, in their life. And I think that the tragedies are that we see that if Father Boyle were here as well, is that low self- esteem, not succeeding in school, family dysfunction with the father absent from the home, primarily, and then failure along the way.
KING: Jim, what do you think?
BROWN: Well, caring, Larry, it's a strange word, you know. A lot of these young men don't have anyone to care for them, no one to communicate with, no fathers. The African-American fathers are missing.
I've been dealing with them since 1988. I never had a gun pulled on me, never had one put their hands on me, and I've always had my meetings at my home.
KING: You're in a little different place.
BROWN: I'm not big, Larry. It's not because of that.
KING: No, but you're a sports hero.
BROWN: Yeah, Larry, but sports heroes don't go where I go. Bo and I went to 14 gang sets two years ago to meet with them to bring about a truce on the West Side. The homicide rate is down to zip. We went together, not as big Jim Brown, but just as a concerned individual that wanted to do something in their lives. And my consistency allows me to have credibility, because I share everything with them. I don't go to the job and then go home and be with my other friends.
So, you know, no fathers. You've got to have a lot of caring. I don't say love, I say caring. You've got to care about these youngsters, because they're out there by themselves.
KING: Bo, why do feuds start. Gang wars, why?
TAYLOR: Like I said earlier, people don't have all the tools to make the right decisions.
KING: So what are they fighting over?
TAYLOR: Nothing, because they don't own the territory. That's definitely, they don't own it. So -- but you know what, you find comfort like the young man said earlier, you know, Devaughn. You hang out with people who are like-minded. And when somebody else has been deprived or the door has been shut and you feel hopeless and nobody really cares, you know, it's easy to find comfort. You know, misery loves company. So it's easy.
But when you're dealing with a culture that doesn't truly understand the system and has been locked out and nobody's really reached in, it's a shame in our society right now that you've got one person, you know, Jim -- I've got to say it, Jim is a surrogate father to thousands of us who really have changed their lives and wanted to make a change. But he's been consistent. And that's the thing. You've got to have somebody that's consistent and somebody that cares. But on top of that, Larry, you've got to have somebody that's going to put a system in place to teach you life management skills where you can make better decisions and live your own life and be responsible.
KING: Well said. By the way, there is a Web site for your organization, right?
TAYLOR: Yes. It's unityonenow.com.
KING: Unityonenow.com. And Jim's is amer-i-can.org. How important do you think, Sheriff Baca, Jim Brown is?
BACA: Very important. The amer-i-can program is actually in the Los Angeles County jails, because, as you would expect, almost every gang member is going to hit the county jail at one point in their life. And once they get in and they're going to get released, we want them to get out with a little more survival skills. And Bo Taylor has been in there with Jim Brown, along with our good friend, Connie Rice -- he's a civil rights attorney -- and our belief is that the inmate needs to get out with some skills and be better than they were when they came in.
KING: Bo, thanks for coming, man.
TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.
KING: Bo Taylor. Jim Brown will remain, so will Sheriff Baca, and Miguel Saenz and Devaughn Townshend will rejoin us. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all the stuff that I've done right here, that I've committed, crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) is a gang. And a lot of homeys have it on, too, so they could represent it. This is how I represent my neighborhood. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's evil, because that's where I'm from, I'm from the evil side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Sheriff Leroy Baca, the L.A. County sheriff, remains with us. So does Jim Brown, NFL Hall of Famer, director of the Amer-i- can Foundation for Social Change, an organization devoted to stopping gang violence nationwide. Its Web site is amer-i-can.org.
Miguel Saenz returns, former member of the so-called Venice 13 gang. He was shot seven times back in 1998, still carries one of the bullets in his chest cavity. And Devaughn Townshend, 17-year-old former gang banger, just entered the amer-i-can program. He's a young father at age 17. He's been in and out of custody at least 10 times since he was 9 years old.
What do you do when you intervene, Miguel?
SAENZ: What we go is, you know, we go and do outreach, to where if an incident happens, we go and speak to -- to youths that got involved in the problems, to try to calm everything down. And then, you know, intervention is, you know, we get them to join our program, the life skills program that we teach. And then we've got a class for the youths called Jay Big (ph), teaching them how to be leaders in a positive way.
KING: And Devaughn, when they came, when interventionists came to talk to you, and you were a member, did it have any play to you?
TOWNSHEND: Well, really, interventionists didn't speak with me. It was more of my father and, yes, it was effective. Immediately, too. He passed me the manual, sit down, read this, let's talk about it. Let's see what's going on. You know, talk to me. What's wrong?
KING: The fact that he had experience help you?
TOWNSHEND: Right. Correct. The fact that he had experience with the same gang helped me a lot.
KING: Sheriff Baca, how many -- you were telling me during the break, we should tell the audience how many weapons there are in this area.
BACA: Well, I tell you, Larry, it's unbelievable. In Los Angeles County, just between the LAPD and the Sheriff's Department, we'll take away from street gangs, as well as other criminals, 10,000 weapons a year, of which we take down to a smoldering plant and burn them and make them into rebar.
KING: Weapons are easily obtained?
BACA: For gang members it's amazing how easy weapons are attainable. And the phenomenon of gangs is so complex and yet they can get ahold of these guns with no problem at all.
KING: How much, Jim, is drug involved?
BROWN: Well, it's a way of making money. It's overrated from the standpoint of how influential it is, because a lot of these youngsters are not making a lot of money from drugs, but there are certain individuals that make a lot of money from drugs.
But it becomes the alternative industry. In other words, if you come out of jail, you have no job, et cetera, et cetera, the easiest thing to do is pick up a sack and sell drugs. But it's a big part in behavior, because a lot of the criminality takes place when people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
KING: Miguel, what kept you, do you think, from being bitter?
SAENZ: Well, my father passed away while I was in prison. I got out in 2004. So when I went back to Venice, I spoke with our director, Melvin, well, he's a personal friend of mine. We grew up together. And he asked me if I would like to get into this line of work. And I thought for myself for a while, you know what, I should, because there's nothing out here for the Latinos in my area. And, two, I wanted a change.
KING: What did it do for you, DeVaughn? You were in and out of prison?
TOWNSHEND: Confinement time helped me learn myself, made me look at things the brighter way. You know? Because I've always had this dark cloud over me. So it was the light. I needed that. Being away from your family really sucks, and you want to go home.
KING: DeVaughn and Miguel will remain.
Thank you so much, Sheriff. Thanks for all you do.
And Jim, what can one say? You're an American hero. Sheriff Leroy Baca and Jim Brown.
Miguel and DeVaughn remain.
We'll be back. Don't go away.
KING: Miguel Saenz and DeVaughn Townshend remain with us, and we now meet Craig Jay Ford. A former member of a white gang supremacist gang based in northern California.
A gang, Craig?
CRAIG JAY FORD, FMR. CALIF. WHITE SUPREMACIST GANG MEMBER: Yes, unfortunately.
KING: Why supremacy, though? FORD: If you're Mexican, you go with the Mexicans. If you're black, you're over here with the blacks. And if you're white, you know what I mean?
KING: So it was the circumstance?
FORD: Pretty much. Yes.
KING: How long were you in the gang?
FORD: I stayed there almost -- about three, three and a half years, and then violation, violation, violation for, you know, no places, you know. Same place, yet no place to go away from where I was born and raised.
KING: So how did you get out?
FORD: Well, I didn't until I was -- after when I was like 32 years old.
FORD: Yes. I went to like five -- ten different prisons after...
FORD: And it's like -- you know when you start, it's like you get your blinders on. You know? And you go -- you know, the drugs.
KING: What finally worked?
KING: You converted?
FORD: That's right.
KING: Born again?
FORD: Well, yes, you look at the things you've done in your life and you see the people, and you realize that they're not your friends. You know what I mean? Not at all. You know, they use you for your drugs or for whatever they can get, you know, from you, because when you're in prison, you know, 15 years or whatever, it's hard to change who you are.
KING: Are you OK now?
FORD: Yes, I'm -- I'm...
KING: What do you do for a living?
FORD: I worked at Jordan Christ Ministries (ph) building houses and decks, all kinds of things.
KING: So you never -- you don't feel any problem sitting next to DeVaughn?
FORD: No. That's right. You know what I mean? But, see, when you're in prison, yes, it's the prison and the people that makes you think about a black brother or any brother differently, you know what I mean?
KING: You mean, the prison causes it?
FORD: Well, yes, and, well if you're out in gangs, it's all the same thing. You know what I mean? It all...
KING: You know, if you're in a prison no matter where you are? In or out, you're in a prison, right, if you're in a gang?
FORD: Well, yes, yes.
KING: Did you feel that way, Miguel?
SAENZ: No, not really.
KING: It's a kind of prison, isn't it?
SAENZ: Well, it's -- well, kind of prison because it's going to lead you to prison if you join the gang.
FORD: That's right.
SAENZ: You know? Either do something bad and end up there.
KING: Do you feel sorry for Craig?
SAENZ: Like how? Like, you know, he went to jail, you know? Can't feel sorry for him but just glad that he changed. You know?
KING: You're totally OK now?
FORD: Yes, I'm all right.
KING: How do you feel, DeVaughn?
TOWNSHEND: Level-headed. I feel good about myself now, know that I could walk past a Hispanic or even a Caucasian and not get signs thrown up at me and throw signs back up at them. Not having to do this right here, even though I still live in L.A. I feel different within myself, knowing that how I'm changing my life and my lifestyle.
KING: I congratulate all of you.
Good luck, Craig.
FORD: That's right.
KING: DeVaughn, Miguel, thank you.
SAENZ: Thank you.
TOWNSHEND: Thank you.
KING: We hope we've opened some eyes tonight. That's this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
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