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The Back Gate

The area around the Oceanside pier and boardwalk glistens, picture perfect: palm trees, silver sand, blue water, and crowds of people. It’s easy to see how this town got its name. But there’s a lot more to Oceanside than its ocean side.

To the north is Camp Pendleton, a border that marks Oceanside as the unquestionable end of San Diego County. North of that is frontier.

You can drive east, away from the ocean, covering five long miles on Highway 76, deep into the San Luis Rey Valley, past an indoor shooting range, an airstrip, an old drive-in theater, greenish fields, various neighborhoods, and countless shopping centers, and you’ll think you’ve entered another city. But you haven’t. You’re still in Oceanside.

Turn left on College, right on North River Road, and you’ve reached the last civilian outpost before the back gate of Camp Pendleton. The maps call this neighborhood Mesa Margarita, but everyone knows it as the Back Gate.

The people who live in the $400,000 houses of the Back Gate will tell you that it’s basically a good neighborhood. The place looks average enough and quiet enough to a casual passerby, with careful landscaping and green lawns.

Although…there are an awful lot of high front-yard fences…

Joanne Rush has called the Back Gate home since it was built in the late 1960s. She works as the community assistant at San Luis Rey Valley Resource Center, a little storefront operation on Vandegrift Boulevard, right at the front gate of the Back Gate. Rush, who is white, has been at the center for over 14 years.

Her husband is a Vietnam veteran. The history of the neighborhood dates to that war, when the mostly L-shaped, single-story houses of the Back Gate were built for the wives of soldiers. “We have 32 houses on my street,” Rush says, referring to Ann Street. “And when I moved in, there was only one man who lived here.”

Today, the Back Gate has earned a different reputation altogether, as a hotbed of gang activity.

But Rush, and many other Back Gate residents, suck their teeth at that. “The press always portrays it as such a bad neighborhood,” Rush says. “But we’re good people and we work hard. We’re just waiting for someone to take notice of that.”

Samoans, Part 1:

A Cultural Connection

Everyday Samoan language sounds like spoken song, pouring out like liquid: an ongoing flowing flooding of open vowels.

Samoan traditional clothing is showy and colorful, everything reminiscent of bright flowers.

We’ve all seen Samoans playing football in the NFL. Their body type lends itself to athleticism. As a people, they are generally huge and implausibly agile.

With nearly 5000 Samoans, Oceanside is home to the second largest concentration of Samoans in the United States. The majority of these Pacific Islanders live in and around the Back Gate area.

Many of the Samoans here are descendants of U.S. Marines who were stationed at Camp Pendleton. The first wave came in the 1940s, during World War II, and now four generations call Oceanside home.

At the annual Oceanside Samoan Cultural Celebration last summer, over 200 attendees listened to traditional music, participated in traditional and not-so-traditional dancing, and watched and competed in cultural activities such as banana-peeling contests.

It was a festive scene, and many seemed to connect deeply with the activities. For example, all of the traditional contests pitted grandparents against grammar-schoolers; sometimes, a younger kid won.

Samoans, Part 2:

The Pressures

“Samoan kids are just the most respectful kids,” says Joanne Rush. She’s seated at a plastic indoor picnic table at the Resource Center. “They help clean up, even without being asked. And if they’re vacuuming, after playtime is done, they don’t just drag the vacuum around. They move the furniture and they make sure to do a really good job. I’ve never had a Samoan kid talk back to me or use foul language. And they seem to be pretty much like that with the other kids as well.”

Wayne Godinet, a senior advisor for the Oceanside Samoan Cultural Committee, agrees. “These fourth-generation kids are getting so good at riding the fence,” he shakes his head. “When the sun goes down, they can hang with the bad crowd, and in the morning, they’re real good at meeting their family duties. I mean, some of these kids change into their colors on the bus on the way to school.”

Perhaps the biggest and most high-profile gang in the Back Gate — the Deep Valley Bloods — is over 90 percent Samoan.

One may be led to wonder how such a God-fearing, respectful, and tradition-minded people could also make up a criminal organization like a gang.

A school bus driver took an unofficial survey of Back Gate kids, asking his young commuters what they could ever want with gangs and gang life. The overwhelming response? Protection, protection, protection.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Dereck, 13, attends Jefferson Middle School. Next year he’ll go to Oceanside High.

“I don’t need protection from a gang,” Dereck says. “God’s my protection.”

But what about the pressure from your peers?

“If someone says, ‘Hey, take a smoke,’ or something like that, and if I don’t want to do it, then they call me names and make fun of me,” Dereck says. “But it doesn’t bother me. They want to call me names, they can call me names. But I’m not going to go that way.”

Why do other kids go that way?

“I think because of the way they grew up,” Dereck says. “Maybe the people they look up to are involved in gangs.”

Jonathan, 20, is in the Navy and lives in the Back Gate.

“I usually stay inside, so I don’t see much,” says Jonathan. “I’m not really an outgoing person. I like playing video games, so…but I’ve heard gunshots before. And sometimes I’ll come home, and I’ll see cops around, with their lights flashing, and then I read stuff in the newspaper. But that’s not very often. It’s not, like, all the time or anything.”

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Anonymous Feb. 20, 2008 @ 12:13 p.m.

........At the annual Oceanside Samoan Cultural Celebration last summer, over 200 attendees listened to traditional music, participated in traditional and not-so-traditional dancing, and watched and competed in cultural activities such as banana-peeling contests....

over 200 attendees? More like 200,000....

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Anonymous Feb. 20, 2008 @ 12:40 p.m.

In 2006 and 2007, I lived in Oceanside west of Coast Highway. I have not always had the best luck with cops, but I felt very safe there. The police are real professional and take their time talking with people when they stop them for various things. I saw them contain a potentially explosive situation during the 4th of July weekend at the beach.

They patrol a lot and are very visible all around the city. They go to the high schools when they let out to discourage after school fights and unruly crowds.

Oceanside should be very proud of their police force.

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Jose619 Feb. 22, 2008 @ 3:24 p.m.

Interesting cover story, but way vague and definitely NOT the hot bed of activity the media portrays. Compared to Southeast San Diego and City Heights, Oceanside is tame and cannot compare to the level of gang activity in the aforementioned areas. 11 gangs in one area? Please. Southeast San Diego has Lomita, PH, Encanto, SE Locos, SE Tokers, MV73 Locos, ST Gamma, ST 38th, Sherman ghp, 20th, 27th, Logan Heights RS, 30ta, Bayside X3, SEK LS, Market Street, WC Crips, 30th Street Crips, Lincoln Park Bloods with 3 clicks, Skyline Piru, The Basement Brims, etc, etc, etc. and that is to name a few. Not counting the number of members. Any police officer in the Southeast patrol can tell you Logan has well over 500 members. Old Town National City, had about 300, and lets not even BEGIN to mention City Heights, that has 10 or 11 hispanic gangs warring in an 10 block radius. And did we fail to mention the number of probationary/confederate stepping stone crews that platform into the existing gang? The list goes on and on. Any search of the newspaper in the last month will list shootings and homicides and gang-related activity in Shelltown and City Heights on a regular basis. Not flare-ups, but ongoing feuds that have been going on for decades. Civil war people, in your own back yards.

So please, Reader, how about a story on a REAL gang plagued neighborhood, such as the Bay Vista Apartments that require 24 hour surveillance cameras and guards and people are STILL getting killed inside the complex due to a gangs' strong hold. Or contact the gang detectives who work out of the Skyline station and have them tell you about the 15 year old's who have killed 4 or 5 people and by the age of 20 are hardened murderers. They will tell you of how Paradise Hills have been professional victims, losing 4 young men to bullcrap over the last year. And about how The SouthCrest neighborhood is under seige by the local hispanic gangs that CONSTANTLY shoot it out on a WEEKLY basis on Delta, Gamma, and Boston Avenues. How do I know?

I know, I was contributing to the problem for 15 years until I changed my life and have dedicated my resources to helping these young men.

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chinky187 May 9, 2012 @ 2:51 p.m.

pff...we may have less but how many of them kill cops and kids...

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realtalk22 Feb. 22, 2008 @ 6:25 p.m.

Heres a quick lesson and hopefully OPD reads this, because they seem uninformed about the gangs in their own city.

"Crook Mob Gangsters" is not the name of the gang, it is actually "Crook Mob Gangsta Crip" formally "East Side Crips".

Krook City Bloods has alot more members than OPD knows. KCB started in the mid 80s and is not based in tri-city. Unlike other gangs claiming 1 specific neighborhood. Krook City Bloods is broken into factions for each part of the city. Members from Tri City were formally a serparate gang before merging under the Krook City Bloods umbrella but were known simply as Tri City Bloods. Members from Krook City Bloods who live in Tri City fall under the moniker "T/C Krook City Bloods" & members who live on the eastside fall under "E/S Krook City Bloods members from the Mid Valley are known as "M/V Krook City Bloods. The gang is 50% samoan and 50% being Blacks Mexican ETC.

& for Det. Young from Oceanside Police Department, the first Bloods & Crips gangs in Deep Valley, were both samoan gangs. Who ever lived on the the west side of vandergrift were modeled after Los Angeles' "Sons of Samoa" gang (created to seperate themselves from samoans who lived towards Arthur Avenue) and the gang members on the east side of Vandergrift were modeled after L.A Bloods and were known as "Valley Boys". They formed as a Bloods gang same time as South San Diego gangs with original ties to San Diego's "5/9 Brims" & L.A gangs. Oceanside's Downtown area streets north of Surfrider were a hotbed for L.A Crip gangs during the early 80s looking to score big with crack sales. These became their early enemies before Deep Valley Crips was created. During this time period The younger blacks who lived in close proximity to the toll bridge formed a crew called "Deep Valley Foot Soldiers (1987)" and it wasnt until the release of the movie "Colors" starring Sean Penn (1988), that they then changed their name to "Deep Valley Crips". 2nd generation "Valley Boys" wanted to show more affiliation and represent the section of Oceanside they came from and became "Deep Valley Bloods".

"Thunders Hills" was created by a former "Deep Valley Crips" member who was distraut over his brothers (Darrel Kirby) death and his (Mark Kirby) own near death shooting. "Posole" has a west side based gang which originated in the area surrounding Marvin Street & Sherbourne Park area before "Thunder Hills" was created.

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realtalk22 Feb. 22, 2008 @ 7:26 p.m.

To Jose619: your trying to compare a population of 2.5 million (San Diego) to 180,000 (Oceanside). To be frank, 2 great police officers were murdered in the last 3 years in Oceanside by gang members from the Mesa Margarita aka The Back Gate area. It would be a dis-service not to let the county know whats going on.

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Jose619 Feb. 23, 2008 @ 11:28 a.m.

Actually RealTalk, you misinterpreted my post. I was only referring to TWO areas of San Diego. If you took a census of the residents of 92105-92113 (City Heights/Southeast San Diego) I am sure you will find well under 2.5 million. I am only focusing on one of two areas as well, not the whole city. I respect your post, no offense taken. Great follow up on # 4.

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realtalk22 Feb. 23, 2008 @ 4:10 p.m.

I didnt take anything out of context...But just to put it in your terms....Southeast San Diego has probaly 10 times the poplution than Oceanside's Mesa Margarita..If you cut the population down in SD..U have to do the same in the small city....What your trying to do is self promote, only to suit your ideas. Regardless of your personal feelings of disrespect towards the editor for not publicizing your gang. If police officers are murdered than it deserves attention. For you to suggest vague over information is idiotic. RIP Dan Bessant & Tony Zeppetella

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VinOne Feb. 23, 2008 @ 6:17 p.m.

Realtalk 22, I'm glad you posted all that information on the real history of the O'side Gang's. Another point I would like to mention is that the South Oceanside Posse, which usually kicked it at Buccaneer park on the weekends, was primarily black but wasn't the only gang out of South Oceanside. One of the most violent gangs that ran through most of Oceanside and Carlsbad was the O'side Suicidals, or the Suey's. They were a mix of every culture and had ties to every gang in the area as well as the Hell's Angel's. I'm not sure who originally started it, but was ran by Suey Joe for a long time. I was never sure of the number of people in this crew, but I did know they ran pretty deep.

There were also quite a few of Graffiti Krew's in the area as well. FTS, SSK, DA, and BDR being some of the most well known and respected. I know that those krew's would often have as many as 40-50 members in them spanning a huge age gap as well. While maybe not as violent as many of the gangs, they also contributed to the deliquency of many young people.

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Jose619 Feb. 24, 2008 @ 8:07 a.m.

Realtalk,

Great to see you majored in Psychology. Thanks for the clarification on my underlying motivation. Pardon me if you are overly sensitive, but if you care to take a moment to review, there is not "one gang" as you stated that I am offended was not publicized. The hispanic neighborhood I grew up in doesn't need any more publicity, as it has injunctions, the largest membership, connections with the slain cardinal in Tijuana, and a great number of expendable youth. I spent 2 years in Chino, Adler Hall, and 2 in Chuckawalla. I got out and received a degree in Public Administration. I work with Probation and the shot callers from different Varrio's to calm tensions. Self promotion to suit my ideas? Listen "Real", if you have a hidden agenda, then you are more than welcome to come talk to me. You can find me in the Alley on Martin Avenue, 1/2 a block east of 30th street in Logan Heights. Tell the youngsters in the alley that you are there to see me, and please, proceed with caution. You can come into my yard, eat, and conversate. This is a public forum and I have the right to express my views and concerns. My grief was with the Reader, not with anyone else. I do not have time for chatter games. As I stated, come see me, but please do so before dark. And you forgot to include the RIPs of the OTHER innocent victims next to the police officers. We already can tell who you champion for the cause. Be sure to cover the "Back the badge" sticker on your bumper when you come visit.

Take comments like a grain of salt. Don't be so sensitive and offensive with name calling. MY offer stands. Come visit.

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realtalk22 Feb. 24, 2008 @ 11:04 p.m.

Come on Jose, just by your response its clear you want me to know where your from. Lets have a meeting in National City? Now how does that sound? It sounds pretty absurd doesnt it. Its like me saying lets have one with some acre boys or some insane boys present...Look I commend you on your accomplishments and I meant no disrespect I was stating that it would be idiotic for a person to look past a cover story being informational not glorification. Theres rough neighb orhoods everywhere, its better to cover some than none, right? I agree that southeast deserves attention too but I didnt write the article. Hopefully you can understand what I'm trying to say.

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fadedinoside March 7, 2008 @ 1:16 p.m.

THE GUY WHO WROTE THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT FROM OCEANSIDE.... UNFORTUNATLEY IN THIS SITUATION I AM, AND I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE WRITER FOR PUTTING THE HUGES MISREPRESENTATION OF OCEANSIDE ON THE COVER OF THE READER... MABEE IT WILL KEEP THE DORKY TOURISTS FROM VISITING OUR CITY THUS DESTROYING LOCAL BUSSINESS THAT THRIVES ON TOURIST MONEY. BUT YOU DONT CARE ABOUT THAT.. YOU LEFT OUT SOOO MANY GOOD PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN KILLED IN OCEANSIDE DUE TO GANG VIOLENCE, ITS SICKENING. WHAT A CROCK, YOU DIDNT EVEN TOUCHE BASE ON OUR GANG ACTIVITY. HOWEVER OCEANSIDE ISNT A GANG RIDDLED CITY...SURE WE HAVE OUR SHARE OF GANGS, BUT ITS A CITY FULL OF CLUTURE AND DIVERSITY,JUST LIKE THE REST OF SD, AND HOW DARE YOU ATTEMPT TO EXPLOIT US LIKE THAT? YOU ARE NOT A PROFFESSIONAL SIR, NOT AT ALL... WHAT WAS WITH THE BAD JAIL HOUSE TATS AND SHAVED CHEST ON THE COVER? DUDE, THERE ARE PEOPLE WIH OCEANSIDE TATOOED ON THEIR FACE , THAT GUYS DIDNT HAVE IT ON HIM ONCE... THAT WAS LAME . YOU MADE US LOOK BAD, AND NOW ITS TIME FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LOOK BAD... IF YOU ARE GONNA THROW IT UP FOR OCEANSIDE, THEN THROW IT UP, DONT MISSREPRESENT, THATS HOW PEOPLE GET HURT. FURTHER MORE, THE RESPONSE NOW IN SD IS NOTHING BUT PEOPLE WHO EITHER DONT LIKE YOU AS A PERSON, OR dont like oceanside thinking we were in on that article or something BUT WE WERE NOT! NOW PEOPLE WANT THEIR CITY REPRESENTED AS THE GANG CAPITAL OF SD INSTEAD OF OSIDE, AS IF ITS SOMETHING TO BRAGG ABOUT. ALL YOU DID WAS GLORIFY AN ALREADY OUT OF CONTROL PROBLEM.. NOT TO MENTION YOU DOWN PLAYED THE GANG NUMBERS BY HUNDREDS, AND LEFT A NUMBER OF GANGS OUT OF THE REGISTRY. YOU EVEN MADE A FEW UP, LIKE SOUTH O POSSE, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A CLOWN. YOU BLEW IT HARD DUDE. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY BE FIRED FOR THAT.

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Hiatus23 March 15, 2008 @ 12:01 a.m.

I feel that post like these are what oceanside needs and the word should be spread to the east coast. Where I am witnessing first had a mild case of so called gangbanging. I was raised in Oceanside from 1989 to 1996, where I lived in Deep valley crip ran apartments, off of El camino real. I was to young to roll with the older guy they only allowed me to tag up the neighborhood. The sad part was that I looked up to these guys because they often took care of me, being that my mother was addicted to crack cocaine. Never did I see OPD reaching out to the youth but these crips did they often made sure my mother had food in the house and clothes for me to wear. The only time I seen OPD was when I witnessed a murder in broad daylight, on june 10th around 1995 at the age of 9. Did they offer me protection no, nor did they offer me counseling, but they wanted all of the information I had. but they didnt realize the killer crew came back to the seen and spotted the police trying to recieve a statement from me. So my family had to relocate me to VA for my safety. Thats in the past but to make a difference they may need to take individual like myself and relocate to a more positive community. But hey what did I know, I lived it grew from it, recieved a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Radford University and now I'm making the real difference in childrens lives the right way leading be example. and telling my story from the inside out, not from the outside looking in.

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LILJD June 12, 2008 @ 3:02 p.m.

TO WHO EVER WROTE THIS U DID SOME WHAT OF AN OK JOB U JUST MADE IT LOOK AS IF THE SOMOANS AND S AY'S ARE RUNNING STUFF. U FOR GOT ALL THE PEOPLE THAT DIED AT THE BOTTOM ,MAINLY THE MEXICANS AND SOMOANS THE VALLEY CRIP GANG IS THE ONES WHO PUT THEM DOWN GET THE FACTS RIGHT WHEN U WRITE THINGS ABOUT A CITY I KNOW U AINT FROM CUZZ U WOULD KNOW WHO THE KILLERS ARE........GET IT RIGHT....V'SSSSSSSSS

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LILJD June 12, 2008 @ 3:08 p.m.

REAL TALK U GOTTA BE FROM THE CITY CUZZ THATS WHAT I REMEMBER IM 31 AND I BEEN AROUND THE CITY SINCE I WAS 11 SO U ARE RIGHT ON THE MONEY ............MY HOME GIRL MICHELLE TATE RIP..........BUT DID U KNOW SHE WAS RELATED TO THE NIGGA THAT KILLED HER THAT WHY WE BEEN ON THEM BUSTER VALLEY SLOBS SINCE THAT DAY.............KEEP IT TREAL........

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LILFUNKSTA Sept. 8, 2008 @ 3:19 p.m.

LILJD WHY U TRYIN TO DISRESPECT ON THE READER FOR U CRABS DONT KNOW NOTHING AND ITS DEEP VALLEY BLOODS THERE IS NO MORE DVcK IN THE VALLEY THERE IS ONLY 1 HOOD IN THE VALLEY NOW AND WE ALL KNOW........... BUT BACK TO THE STORY SHE WAS IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME NOW NO MORE DISRESPCTIN AND ALL U GUYS KNOW THE VALLEY IS HOME TO DA RYDAS AND TO DA FAMOUS ALRIGHT THEN SO DUBS AND DVB'S IN DA AIR .........REMEMBER ME BORN AND RAISED IN THE VALLEY

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mizz_B Sept. 16, 2008 @ 8:33 a.m.

fumber.. you aint nobody tah talk if its so bad why dont you get tah steppin kes it be all bout dem deep valley bloods rollin 20s hommay fck cKraBs dey wna bang better be able tah handle dey shiet dats da ch0ice bangers make soohwoop

r.i.p Rusty seau free da homies !! keep y0 head up!

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LILFUNKSTA Sept. 24, 2008 @ 3:37 p.m.

....AYE FUMBER U GOT ALOT A TALK BUT WHEN WE B AROUND U BE DA 1 HIDIN ALL UP UNDER THE BED HUH YEAH BUT ANYWAYZ WE VALLEEH RYADIN ALL DAY 20 SMAKKIN NAKKKAHS DATS RIGHT FREE ALL DA HOMIES AND MY BIGG USO BIGG FUNK ALRIGHT LUVED ONES IN DA AIR DO UR THANG MOMZ,SWIGG,PEARL, VALLEY UP

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john3_17 Nov. 22, 2008 @ 11:47 p.m.

This verse says that Jesus didn't come to condemn the world but he came that the world through him might be saved.I am Praying for every hood and every gangsta past and present and my prayer is this. Lord would you by your love change the hearts of these men, women and in some cases boys n girls. Lord by your holy spirit let them know how much you love them.I pray for all da homies incarcerated and all those that are on death row. Lord your word says "you change the hearts of kings" would you change the hearts 1 gangsta, 1 gang and 1 block at a time. Its all about the void we all have in our hearts Lord. Would you pour your grace and mercy upon all the streets. I pray for repentance Lord forgive us all gangstas, doctors, political officials,athletes and who ever else Lord you know that is in need of love life because we all gansgtas in our hearts apart from you Lord. In Jesus name amen. Much Love to ya'll

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grewupinthevalley July 16, 2009 @ 6:17 p.m.

man i know a bunch of dudes in the valley on everyside who has been all talk and not with the bussiness it seems to me that the ones banging on eachother migth just be lil kids who never got to see what gang bangind really is. guns big deal go toe to toe knuckel up your braging about some1 who killed a cop but you didnt do it

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Gseven Sept. 18, 2011 @ 10:57 a.m.

Im a 42 years old and grew up in North County since my teens. I went to Vista High school and new Akeli “Junior” Kelly personally. I was never in a gang but was gang affiliated because I was a popper and a break dancer. Popping has always been part of the culture and therefore I knew them all. I had close friends that were from Deep Valley, Posole, South O, Tri-city, Vista and San Marcos. I used to call Akeli "Kelly Kelly" and he was a good popper. He could even wave his eye brows when popping. The Kelly I knew personally was good person one on one but looking back at In hindsight he was a teen with problems. He usually hung out by himself and I still remember him circling the school campus restlessly. It never occurred to me how deep his issues were but now that I look back the behavior was a tale tell tell sign that something was amiss. Allot of the OGs are gone, in prison or grew up and went the family life. Some times I go to the Lo Lo car shows and see some of the older dudes and it makes me feel good some of the homies are still making it. Love and education is what the youth need....the most vicious banger has the ability and the choice to make that change. Peace & prayer to all the fallin soldiers and innocent families who have lost love ones to gang brutality.

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Kawika03 Nov. 29, 2013 @ 11:29 a.m.

I knew a lot of the kids who were killed. Rusty Seau and Jesse Watson were real good friends of mine. I sold a lot of things to different gangs back in the day and i was crazy when the bodies started to drop. I was stuck in the middle having friends on both sides and that's a big reason why I joined the military and got out of there. The hardest part was coming home from work and seeing Jesse's body laid out on the ground across the street from my apartment. Later to learn that one of his killers was a friend of mine. A lot more goes on in that area that isn't documented by the papers. Growing up in Hawai'i I wasn't used to the gang culture. When I moved to Oceanside in high school most of my friends were either black or Samoan. Being hispanic myself, a lot of the mexican bangers had a problem with me due to my affiliation. I doubt things in that area will ever change but we can all hope.

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