Revenge can seem inev itable among the combatants. In two recent homicides, the victims’ children witnessed the incident. These are memories they will carry with them throughout their lives and so the seeds of vengeance are planted in the young mind and grow as the child grows. The lesson learned from the experience is that justice for the family can only be found at the end of a gun.
Leo Lopez, a former member of the Gang Taskforce for Southeast New Mexico, explained: “In some streets, you had to join a gang for your own protection. A lot of kids in Roswell died in the 1970s. People got killed because they walked through the wrong section of town or had no gang affiliation.”
Often, it was Lopez’s duty to inform parents, who claimed no relationship to the local gang, that their child was a gang member.
“They would say their teenager was not bad. He had been caught painting graffiti, but graffiti always is an indicator of the presence of gangs operating in the area. It is part of initiation and a way they mark their territory.”
Lopez relayed one Thanksgiving tale where: “The Northside and Southside gangs got into a slapping contest. There were armed people on the roof near a party. Four girls got out of the truck to join the party when gunfire erupts. One girl got shot in the back of the head.
“The mentality is primitive. It has nothing to do with survival. These people have no morals, no scruples.”
Young people are often sacrificed for the gang.
“They’ll let a kid take credit for a killing because the older members know that, except in the worst cases, kids will be tried as a juvenile and get off with a lighter sentence, and the teenagers are glad to do it. They accept the crime and do the time … for the gang.”
In one case, the person charged with a murder was 14 years old. He was sentenced, but the cycle of violence and revenge against the victim’s family did not stop after he went to jail. It continued with drive-by shootings that occurred every day for weeks, until the family was forced to move, not just away from Roswell, but out of state.
The judges get frustrated at the disruption to the courts and seeing the same people in the court-rooms over and over again. Judge Freddie Romero told one young offender as he pronounced sentence: “This cycle of vendetta and revenge has to stop.”
Lopez said he didn’t see an end to the vengeance cycle. “Some people don’t know why they are fighting anymore besides the name.
“It’s a great feeling to know when one young person has gotten out. Some grow out of it once they realize the only outcome is prison or death. Others are third-generation gangbangers. … The family lives on forever through the gang.”