Category Archives: gangs

Long Beach church girl found her way back to God

praising JesusAt 10, Veronyka dressed like a boy and wanted to be a gangster. Then her father got radically saved and she started attending church.

“My family gang-bangs,” she said on a video posted by the Long Beach Door Church. “That’s just the life I came from. I come from generations and generations of gangsters. When you come from the lifestyle that I come from, there are strongholds.”

But after tasting church life, she decided to follow her secular friends and leave the church.

veronyka sanchez“I was going to church but I was also walling out, drinking and going to parties,” she said. I was living a double life. I never had a real one on one relationship with God. When I was 17 and I got my first real taste of the world, I decided, ‘This is awesome. I love it,’ and, ‘Freedom!’ and I got pregnant. I just kind of went downhill from there.”

Veronyka left home and lived house to house during the pregnancy and after giving birth. Then when her baby turned one, Veronyka turned to do what she thought was the only career available to her.

“I started dancing,” she says. “I was in a really hard place, and I felt very alone. I felt like I needed to get quick money fast. Everything that I ever knew was unraveling so fast, so I started dancing. Little did I know that I was going to go down a really dark rabbit hole once I opened that door.”

For three years, she made good money “dancing.” She got her own place and her own car and lived in San Bernardino.

“I got involved with some people who definitely took advantage of me and manipulated me,” she says. “As dark as an environment that I got in, I could have gotten deeper. It scared me to a point where I was like, ‘Am I going to go fully into what I’m doing or am I going to stop all of this and turn back to God?’ Read the rest: Church in Long Beach.

He tried to be the devil’s #1

Ronnie Legg Texas gangster turned to ChristIncarcerated for a schoolyard murder, a psychologist told 12-year-old Ronnie Legg there was no forgiveness available to Him from God.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ll never be able to get into Heaven,” he says on a video published by a Texas outreach group. “I might as well be the devil’s #1. As soon as I was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years, I started pushing hard to try to do the devil’s work. I was pushing hard to be the ultimate gangster.”

Ronnie’s troubles began early: a single mom, abused as a tyke, living in poverty. For selling drugs on the wrong street in East Houston, his brother was killed. Nine-year-old Ronnie followed in his footsteps with drinking and smoking dope.

Ronnie Legg saved from gangsHis mother, brokenhearted at the loss of one son, steeled her heart against what she thought was the inevitable demise of Ronnie.

“There’s no more love here for you because you’re going down the same path your brother went down,” his mom told him. “You ain’t going to do nothing different, so I’ll be danged if you break my heart.”

Ronnie responded to the rejection by throwing the first object he could find at her.

“I hate you,” he yelled.

At age 12, he was on the schoolyard when a group of young gangsters tried to jump him. But they didn’t count on Ronnie being armed and he shot three of them, killing one. He was arrested four days later. Even without a jailhouse confession, prosecutors secured a conviction.

Ronnie Legg Game OverBy age 15, he was in the penitentiary because he was so dangerous. While there, he joined the Houstone Blast gang and fought every day to make a name for himself.

“As I started doing that, everybody was patting me on the back,” he recalls.

Released from prison, he trafficked dope, pimping and kidnapping in Houston.

In December 1999, the Feds tracked him down. It seems his best friend snitched on him. Sentenced to 72 months, he got into trouble in prison so much that his sentence was lengthened to 9 years and 4 months and then into 12 years.

“I ended up walking around some of the worst prisons in the whole United States,” he says. He was in Beaumont prison during the racial riots. He was transferred to Oklahoma and then to Pollack, Louisiana. Of 100 Texans in Pollack, only he and another survived.

Ronnie eventually was transferred to a Death Row penitentiary in Indiana. In Victorville penitentiary, he was thrown in with the Crips and Bloods. It didn’t matter to him that he was the only Houstone. Almost immediately, he stabbed someone on the yard.

Finally, he was transferred to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” in Florence, Colorado, the “worst of the worst. Everybody there is a killer. Three people a day get stabbed,” Ronnie says.

When he was admitted, the warden gave him one warning:

“All I ask is that you don’t put no steel in my officers.”

When he was finally released, Ronnie went home and immediately resumed drug trafficking.

He got busted for a crime he didn’t commit. Read the rest: Houstone gang Christian.

Could he forgive the death of his brother? Bryann Trejo punches the devil and doesn’t retaliate against the killers

AR-190919667Bryann Trejo was a cold-blooded killer* who’d already spent half his adult life in jail. So when gangsters gunned down his twin brother, Bryann T was tempted to exact a brutal and immediate revenge.

“Even after he was saved, he was murdered,” Bryann says about his brother to Rapzilla. “I came to know Christ as well. I forgave his enemies and murderers and God wrote a new song in my heart.”

Bryann’s twin, named Ryan, is a frequent subject in the hip hop of Bryann Trejo, who is leader of the Kingdom Music Family based in Abilene, Texas. The gangster-turned-pastor’s music, which recently catapulted to the highest levels in CHH, communicates an urgency and passion to get lost souls out of the unforgiving streets and into Jesus’ eternal forgiveness.

bryann trejoBryann was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but his family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was 13. There, he fell into armed robberies and selling narcotics. The juvenile delinquent system and then later adult jail, had a “revolving door” for Bryann, he admits on his website.

“I was thugging, out whiling, a Mexican with a cohete (Spanish slang for a gun) with the love the streets,” Bryann says on a Frontline Ministries Braden Hall YouTube video. “That type of love landed me in shootouts, prison, depression and suicide attempts.”

Because FIRST TIME gangsters attempted to kill his brother, Bryann unleashed a furious retaliation that landed him 30 years in jail for two attempted murders. Eventually the charges were lowered with a plea bargain.

Bryann got out of jail at age 27. His brother had gotten saved and Bryann determined to straighten up with God too.

“I’m a knucklehead. I had an identical twin, and we were mixed up in all kinds of bad stuff,” Bryann told Rapzilla. “But he came to know Christ. We started rapping together. But even after he was saved, he was murdered. I came to know Christ as well.”

bryann and monica trejoThe SECOND ATTEMPT on Ryan’s life was a case of mistaken identity on May 28, 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ryan was trying to disciple a young hoodlum, whom the gangsters were looking for in reprisal for a murder days earlier. The killers showered him with bullets.

Bryann was enraged and broken beyond belief. But he was committed to not relapsing into the old life. Even though he knew who the killers were and could have easily tracked them down, he decided to walk in Christian forgiveness.

“The anger came. God, how could you let my brother get murdered? He served You. I wanted to question Him,” Bryann says on a CUTV video. “I wanted revenge. I’d been in prison before for attempted murder, so when he died it’s already in me to retaliate, especially since he was innocent. I wanted them to pay.”

Bryann came to a crossroads. He faced a momentous decision: either relapse into ravenous revenge or make an audacious stand of forgiveness.

He cried out to God: “Lord, I’m about to go cuckoo. I’m about to lose everything. I got six kids; he got six kids. They’re going to lose daddy and uncle. I knew right then and there, I had to forgive.

“I argued with God, ‘But my brother was innocent,’” he continues. “And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus was innocent.’ Then I was like, ‘But he didn’t deserve this.’ And the Holy Spirit was like, ‘Jesus didn’t deserve it.’”

It wasn’t by any means easy, but Bryann struggled to truly forgive. He still struggles with “bitterness and poison” in his heart. Every day he’s reminded about his brother’s death every day.

“I see his face in the mirror. We’re identical twins,” Bryann says. “His case is still open. The so-called friends didn’t want to be snitches, so they didn’t say nothing. Everything I thought was real in the streets was fake. So now I have this passion to expose Satan and tell people that he is a liar.”

When he returns to the neighborhood, his former friends still provoke him to take revenge.

“The people ridicule me,” he says. “Homeboys be like, ‘You ain’t going to retaliate? That’s your brother. What kind of brother are you?’” he says. Those words stir up the old street pride.

“What, you don’t think I will?” he counters. But then he remembers he’s living in forgiveness.

“I’m not that man. I don’t fight the way I used to fight,” he says. “I trust through Christ that His way of fighting is better than my way of fighting. I’m really punching Satan every time I forgive. I just didn’t know that was the way to fight back because it didn’t make no sense in the physical. We all want to fight the enemy.” Read the rest: Bryann Trejo rapper no revenge

CHH pioneer T-Bone saved out of gangs, dealers and pimps

80536418_1410315875758739_1248071643146747904_oHis best friend was lying twitching on the grass, dying as a result of two bullets fired in a drive-by shooting. His last words: “Just tell everybody to wear red at my funeral.”

As Ralphie slipped into eternity without Jesus, T-Bone decided to “flip” to his parents’ side. The son of pastors in the Mission District of San Francisco, T-Bone lived a double life: he carried his Bible to church on Sunday and a knife in his pocket every other day as a Blood gangster.

61085953_1111468262310170_3756676850064031744_o“I was raised amongst the gangs, drug dealers and pimps,” T-Bone told CBN. “I was left for dead. I had 15 gang members break into my spot at three in the morning and try to kill me. I know what it’s like to have a gun drawn on me, what it’s like to deal with some stuff and jump folks.”

Today T-Bone is one of the longest-standing Christian Hip Hop artists, but when Rene Francisco Sotomayor was born to a Nicaraguan dad and Salvadoran mother who together pastored a church, he wasn’t particularly moved to serve God.

What drew him was the flash and danger of the streets glamorized by shock rap like N.W.A., Public Enemy and 2Pac. He was skinny, hence nicknamed “Bones,” and started with clubs and house parties but progressed to anger and violence. He rapped from age seven.

T-BoneAlmost getting killed himself was not enough for him to choose the undivided life of serving Jesus. But his buddy’s death brought him to a crossroads.

“What did he die for? For this ignorant color?” he asked.

When a guest speaker at his parents’ church urged listeners to accept Jesus, young T-Bone went to the altar.

“As soon as I went, I began to cry. The presence of God was there,” he told CBN. “The Holy Spirit hit me. I said the sinner’s prayer. And that’s when I became what I named my first album: a redeemed hoodlum.” Read the rest: T-Bone Christian rapper.

Triad gang member scraped with death before finding Jesus

ChobySiau3As multiracial dyslexic at 11 years old, Choby Siau was an easy target for bullying at his new school in New Zealand.

“Because of that, I started to fight. I started to fight to defend” my brother and me, Choby narrates in the video he made documenting his salvation.

Choby grew up in a church, but he never had a personal relationship with God. He felt hurt by the church.

“I knew He was real, but I just really thought, ‘How can God let abuse happen to me and my brother?’ I had a distrust of God, and I blamed God for what I went through,” Choby continues.

At 13 years old, Choby and his family left to Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a local Triad, a Chinese mafia.

ChobySiau2

Choby in his gang

“My goal was to raise in the ranks,” Choby says. “I wanted to become a boss in the Triad.”

Choby got kicked out of school in the 8th grade.

“Choby, because you’re out (of school), I’m going to teach you about the ways of the Chinese Triad,’” Choby’s boss told him.

Choby was hooked for life.

Choby started as a fighter. Anytime there was a problem for the Triad in Penang, he was called upon to settle scores.

At 17, he and his family moved to America, far away from his girlfriend. Through his connections in the Triad, he learned she was cheating on him.

“Listen,” he threatened his girlfriend over the phone, “I want you to tell that guy that I have a present coming for him.”

But before he could board the plane, his mom had a very serious talk with him.

“Son, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,” she told him ominously.

“God spoke to her that I was gonna die in Malaysia,” Choby explains. Read the rest of Triad gang member comes to salvation

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.

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.