Category Archives: gangs

Blinky Rodriguez forgave his son’s killers in court

william blinky rodriguez christianThe Lord told William “Blinky” Rodriguez to forgive his son’s killers, but when he came to the courthouse, he was faced with 30 hostile friends and family of the convicted gang bangers.

“I was beat up in regards to the way my son got killed,” Blinky says. “Then we get to the courthouse and 30 guys are there supporting them. They were looking at my wife and I like WE did something wrong, like we were a piece of garbage. This hatred was trying consume me. It was choking me. I tried to not feed it. I tried to not do war. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We came into an agreement to forgive.”

Facing the hate-filled supporters on Jan. 30, 1992, Blinky stood and addressed the Pacoima gang member who shot and killed his 16-year-old son. At the time the teenager was learning to drive stick shift and mistaken for a rival: “David, we forgive you, man. You may have taken Sonny’s life, but you didn’t take his soul. You deal with God now.”

william blinky rodriguea kickboxing

Blinky Rodriguez in his office with a boxing pose and gloves.

It was an extraordinary demonstration of God’s love, redemption and mercy.

That moment in court also sparked a ministry to save gang-bangers and bring law and order to the streets of Los Angeles. Violence snuffed out his son’s life, and Blinky would dedicate the next decades of his life to snuff out gang violence in LA.

Today, social scientists can’t account for the dramatic drop off of drive-bys and retaliations in LA, with some pointing to California’s three-strikes law and others to social programs.

In the strife-ridden 1990s, there were 1,200 killings a year in LA; now there are a mere 300, Blinky notes.

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Gang bangers from the San Fernando Valley back in the day

He gives credit to God and to the 37 staff members serving in the organization he formed, Communities in Schools (CIS), a social service agency focusing on gang prevention and hard-core intervention. (Note: CIS is changing its name to Champions in Service because of restructuring at the national level.”

“I am waiting for the second wave or revival,” Blinky says. “There’s a lot coming. There’s going to be revival in this valley. God allowed a light to be set on a hill that would not be hid. It’s all for the promotion of the kingdom. The church was meant to be in the center. We have to steward our influence.”

Blinky Rodriguez accepted Jesus at a Spanish service in the City of San Fernando, even though he didn’t speak Spanish. He got hooked on martial arts at age 11 in a dojo in nearby Granada Hills. By age 14, he was married and working for his uncle plastering pools for $110 a day. He never graduated high school.

He competed in and won Chuck Norris’ nationwide full contact-to-knockout tournament, which led to the formation of a national team kickboxing in Japan. Along with his brother-in-law, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, he founded and worked the Jet Center Gym in North Hollywood offering training in martial arts.

He was managing pros and choreographing stunts for movies and attending Victory Outreach Church when his eldest son Sonny, 16, was approached by Pacoima gang members and asked the dreaded question: “Where you from?”

Blinky and Lilly Rodriguez

Lilly Urquidez, with Blinky Rodriguez her husband, when they won at the same event.

He had been dabbling in gang dress but wasn’t affiliated. “Nowhere,” Sonny replied, as he sat behind the wheel of the car.

David Carmona, 19, fired point blank into the vehicle, killing the youngster. For his brazen and senseless murder, Carmona was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

To the dismay of the district attorney, Blinky forgave his son’s killer in court and asked for leniency for the guy whose car Carmona and an associate used to perpetrate their violence. He was a victim of circumstance, under the influence of tequila when he loaned his car, Blinky says.

God told Blinky the night before the sentencing: “Tell em to their faces you forgive them.”

Blinky’s wife ministered to the killer’s mother when she saw her break down in the courthouse bathroom.

Blinky didn’t let it die there. He began to reach out to gang members of all affiliations. One night, he visited the site where his son was murdered, and finding young hoodlums there, he witnessed to them about the power of God to transform lives.

Two years went by, and he made connections in the community that brought him into the headlines once again. He organized a meet-up in the park of gang rivals to declare a truce in the gang warfare that was scourging LA everyday.

“There was a vicious spirit of murder over our city,” he says.

In 1993 on Halloween night in a city park, “shot-callers” from 76 gangs met, listened to Blinky’s testimony and the testimony of gang pioneer Donald “Big D” Garcia, and agreed to end the interminable cycle of gang revenge.

It was a stunning achievement in LA, and it lasted two-and-a-half years.

Blinky held weekly meetings in the park, shared the gospel with gang bangers, and staged football tournaments in which rivals threw pigskin instead of gang signs. He trained gang members in his gym.

Ultimately, it only needed one embittered gang member to blow up the whole unheard-of peace treaty with one incident of violence. While the peace treaty didn’t last, the major thrust to end gang warfare largely remained. Read the rest of Blinky Rodriguez brokers peace truce among gangs in San Fernando Valley.

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He threw a bottle at his rival’s head. His rival responded with gunfire.

chris bassett Jesus saved from gangsChris Bassett’s first interaction with God started when he attended a Christian karate class at age 8 or 9 years old at the Harbor Church in Lomita, California.

The class started with 20 minutes of Bible study and a call for salvation before the free karate lessons. One day, Chris felt like the pastor was talking directly to him, so he raised his hand at the altar call to receive Jesus.

“I felt the Spirit of God come down and descend on me like electricity through my body,” he recalls. “I remember walking away from that experience feeling cleansed, brand new. It was so tangible to me.”

He wished this was the end of his testimony and that his path to Christ was that simple, but it was not.

In later years, Chris entered junior high school and began feeling “super cool.” He slowly forgot God.

He got involved in a gang lifestyle, which was easy since a lot of friends and family were in the gang.

“It looked glamorous. The glamour was a lure,” Chris says. “These men I looked up to had a way of carrying themselves that was attractive. They had the nicest cars, the prettiest women, money, power, respect. If you grew up in the hood, you knew who was running the block. It was something exclusive. You had to prove yourself through violence. Once you were in, you were accepted, loved in a way. I knew my boys had my back. If I had any trouble, with just one phone call, I knew I had a carload of goons kicking down the door for me.

But as he participated in the gangster life, he became aware of the downsides.

“The reality of (gangs) is a nightmare. At the heart of gang-banging, I truly believe, (there) is a murderous demonic force, full of death and destruction,” Chris says. “I’ve been to many funerals. I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to that lifestyle, shot dead in the streets. I shot my first man when I was 15. I can still hear my ears ringing from the gunshot. I can still hear him screaming and praying to God. I can still see the blood pouring out of his head like a waterfall, so much blood that I could taste it in the air.”

Incredibly, his victim survived, and Chris fought a reduced attempted murder charge.

“That was just the beginning of my crimes in my gang-banging career,” he says grimly.

Chris not only shot but got shot at on numerous occasions. He’s been stabbed. He’s spent time in jail. He lost friends. Worse, he realized he was losing yourself.

There wasn’t one single moment that brought him to God, but progressively, Chris feels, God was “opening his eyes.”

One of those “opening eyes” moments was when he chased down an enemy and threw his Corona beer bottle at his head. The enemy responded by aiming the barrel of a gun straight at him in a red light on Western Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

“I almost got my head blown off,” he says. “I could say now that by God’s grace I survived that because if you could’ve seen the car, everywhere where my head was, the car was blown out. It was a big gun, one with thunder. It was probably five or six seconds. But time slows down through those things. I remember ducking and telling my friend to go, and I remember seeing glass flying.

“I had just kissed my son goodbye because he was going to his mother’s house. I remember coming out of that situation.”

But that incident alone was not enough to wake him up.

He began reflecting soberly about the possibility of dying and leaving his kids fatherless. In the streets he was a monster, but with his kids Chris played the part of a good father. His family was sacred. He pondered the discrepancy between the way he wanted to raise his kids and the way he was living in the streets.

“I remember thinking about my daughters,” he says. “I remember thinking how can I tell them not to smoke weed and I come smelling like Christmas trees?”

What scared him most was not the scrapes with death, but the frightening numbness towards the horrors of his own evil heart. Now, he thinks he was becoming like Pharaoh, whose heart got progressively harder until he was crushed under the Red Sea

But he still didn’t return to the Savior of his childhood because he liked smoking weed and sleeping around with girls. It took him a year.

At a funeral, he had another powerful reflection. Everybody was saying nice things about his fellow gang member.

“I remember thinking, ‘None of these things were true. He was a monster,'” Chris says. “I remember thinking, ‘What about my funeral? What will they say about me?’ I didn’t want my life to be a lie. I wrestled with that. I started negotiating with God.” Getting saved out of gangs.

MS-13 turning to Jesus by the 1,000s

Revival in Mara Salvatrucha MS gangWhile National Geographic calls MS-13 “America’s deadliest gang” and Trump calls them “animals,” Christian revival has broken out among the youths who tattoo their faces, and hundreds are turning to Jesus.

“Every day in this country, dozens of men are leaving the rank and file of the gang and looking for the right path, the arms of the Lord,” says Pastor William Arias, who is a converted ex-MS. He’s pastored for six years in San Salvador, El Salvador, in a neighborhood so taken over by the gang that public service employees are afraid to enter.

only nine of 71 years in prisonIronically the MS — and fierce rivals 18th St gang — got their start in Los Angeles, according to The Guardian documentary video. During El Salvador’s guerilla war, thousands headed to the U.S. fleeing the carnage in the 1980s. Many settled in the poorest neighborhoods of L.A., where they found themselves caught between African American and Mexican gangs.

To stand up for themselves, they formed the MS — or Mara Salvatrucha — and became fierce rivals. Crackdowns on gangs in L.A. largely tamed warfare between Mexican Americans and African Americans, but the Salvadorans got deported.

wilfredo gomezWhen they returned to their native land, they brought the gang with them.

That’s the story of Wilfredo Gomez, of 18. After being deported to El Salvador, he was arrested for armed robbery in El Salvador.

It was in jail that he found God.

“We are not your typical Christians. We have done a lot of bad things,” Wilfredo says.

When he finished his sentence, he had no family, no friends and nowhere to go.

Pastor William Arias ex MS 13 memberSo he was surprised when the guards told him that “friends” had come to pick him up when he was released. Who could those “friends” be? he wondered.

As he peeked out of the prison, he spied them timidly. They were church members, and they took him in and fed him and gave him a place to live while he transitioned to freedom and could stand on his own two feet.

“We heard what God is doing in there and we’re here to help you. I was like, ‘Whoa, I never had a family. I never had nobody waiting for me when I got out of prison,’ he says. “The way they received me inspired me and gave me strength to continue on the right path.”

Today, Wilfredo is a pastor with the Eben-Ezer church and runs a halfway house for ex-gang members. The youth get a mat on the floor in a common room and three meals a day. They have strict rules against drugs and crime. Wilfredo runs a bread bakery to give them work and pay for the house.

When Wilfredo got saved, he estimated there were 90 or so ex-gang members that had become Christians in the nation. Today, he says there are 1,500. Read the rest about revival in the MS-13 gang and the 18 Street gang.