A criminal defense attorney on February 10 suggested that the tattoo “ESCO VIEJO” on his client merely expresses fondness for his hometown and is not connected to a violent street gang.
“Esco viejo” translates as “old Escondido” and is a term used by several gangs that claim different parts of the northern San Diego County town of that name, according to local police.
Escondido police Sgt. Erik Witholt said that Ruben Trejo Cardenas, 19, was first documented doing “work” for a gang called “Diablos” in 2008, when Cardenas was 14. At that time, the youthful offender yelled, “You’re from weak shit!” at the victim of his attack, according to the sergeant. “Weak shit” is derogatory slang for West Side, a rival gang to the Diablos, according to sergeant Witholt.
In 2009, Cardenas was part of a group that spray-painted EVD as graffiti; those letters stand for Escondido Viejo Diablos, the sergeant said. And Cardenas has been documented introducing himself: “I’m Chamaco from Esco Viejo”; the sergeant said “Chamaco” is his gang moniker.
The Escondido police sergeant and Cardenas were in San Diego’s North County courthouse this week for a preliminary hearing, in which the 19-year-old pleaded not guilty to five felony armed robberies that allegedly occurred last November.
Police say Cardenas was one of two Hispanic males who drew knives and confronted persons walking near a bike path that runs along a flood-control channel near Waverly Place in Escondido.
Five victims spoke to police. They said their attackers brandished knives and said, “Give me all your money” and “I’m from Diablos, I don’t give a fk” and “Do you bang?”
One victim gave up 13 dollars, one gave up 7 dollars and his cell phone, and one gave the sweatshirt off his back. The robbers found the wallet of one man was empty, so they took a car key from his pants pocket, according to police.
The victims noticed a metal piercing above the left eye of one of their attackers. Some witnesses picked Cardenas from a photo lineup and identified him as one robber.
Cardenas had a “straight bar-bell piercing” in his left eyebrow when he was arrested December 5, 2013, according to police gang specialist Jeff Valdivia.
Cardenas was ordered to return to court on February 24 to set a date for trial.