Barbara Nelson 02:10
That's the most difficult part for me; calling a family member and telling them they've lost a loved one.
Salvatore La Barbera 02:16
Judging from the look of the van, these windows appear to have been shot out by gunfire. Also the rear window appears to have been shot out - these are possibly some of the bullet holes, here and here. The coroner is on his way here and as soon as he arrives he'll check the victims person to see if there's any property on him, any identification, if not they'll take his fingerprints and from there I can find out, you know do a background on the victim.
Uniform Police Officer (1) 02:50
He shoots out the window, and then a group of rival members shoot back, and you can see the bullets in the spare tyre, one comes through the back window hits him in the head and he falls forward where he's at.
Local man 03:02
This is a quiet nice neighbourhood, all the neighbours are nice, everybody's quiet and they mind they own business and everybody do their thing and I guess that's why they dropped him here.
Uniform Police Officer (1) 03:12
I think he's gonna be back street gangster cripps, they hang out right this area over here and he's got a big GC on his arm. Anything can spark it, a girl, dope, money, car - whatever sparks it starts.
They got something going on, they may have four or five homicides, back and forth, back and forth.
He belongs to probably more than likely the thirteenth street gang, that's the Roman numerals of the tattoo.
Uniform Police Officer (1) 03:48
You know this won't be the end of it, there's gonna be revenge.
Cheryl Goodman 04:22
I think the busiest any one night I've ever had I had five separate homicides in one night, five different scenes. I think we set a record that weekend on homicides, mostly gang related, and I'm not sure of the totals, I think it was something like 48 homicides in a weekend, which the weekend was from Friday night until Sunday night.
Cheryl Goodman is Coroner's investigator. Her father was a cop and so is her present husband. She also began her career in the police department.
Cheryl Goodman 05:00
We gather the information because the doctor can't respond to the scene, he can't go to the scene and so we gather the information so the doctor knows what occurred and so therefore he can render an opinion as to the cause of death.
The wife heard the gunshot and so we talked to her, it probably is a suicide. A family member could say no he didn't commit suicide, it was somebody else and we learn other information. So we've collected the ?, because once it's gone the evidence is gone, you can't go back.
The residue it'll be particles that we'll look at, and when I get back and tomorrow I'll show you, we'll go down and look at the electron microscope. We want to see where the expended round is, that nobody's touched the weapon, that everything's the way it should be. You know we don't suspect any foul play other than you know suicide and we don't want to leave behind a bullet for the wife to find.
I have compassion for the dead when they are victims, this man chose to be a victim, and I have compassion for a victim who had no choice.
In fact when I make it back to the office we may go out on another one.
The institution best able to record the number of deaths in Los Angeles is the Medico-Legal Institute, the Coroner's Office. Halfway between Disney world and the Hollywood Studios, the Coroner's Office houses a morgue, an autopsy centre staffed by 18 medical examiners, a criminal laboratory and a bureau of investigation
Craig Harvey 07:38
Welcome to the county of Los Angeles Department of Coroner, my name is Craig Harvey, I'm the Chief of Operations here for the Coroner's Office.
So what we're going to do today involves the viewing of dead bodies, if you don't feel you can handle that aspect of this program you don't have to do it, if you decide no to handle that part of the program, you don't get credit for coming through the program. You don't have public tours you can't walk up to the counter and ask for a tour of the facilities, you've gotta be referred by the court, and that's how you get into it.
These are first offenders, and are all minors, obliged to make this visit in lieu of punishment for crimes such as drunken driving, illegal possession of firearms, and violent behaviour.
Craig Harvey 08:24
The mask is for you so that you don't breathe anything in that you shouldn't breathe in, it's not designed to hold out odours, you'll figure that out pretty quick.
We don't autopsy suicide typically, we don't autopsy most accidents. We practice what's known as cost-effective forensic medicine, because of budgetary problems within the county. So we only autopsy those cases that we have to. Out of about 19,000 cases that results in about 5 to 55 hundred autopsies per year.
I think this is suicide, you look and see err, let everybody out of the room there.
Looks like it may have been a gunshot wound via the mouth.
The doctors typically do two cases a day, unless it's a very complicated case, in which case they might just do the one single one.
So what you see is bodies that are up on the table waiting for the doctor to come back downstairs and finish off their examination.
I don't know any other particulars to tell you about this particular case as far as what's happened, but clearly looks like he was shot with a shotgun.
These bodies here the majority of them that you are seeing are cases that we are finished with.
Murders aren't always a 44 year attractive woman who got attacked in her home, it's 16, 17 year old kids that are you know being shot for not answering the right way when a question where are you from is asked, or they're wearing the wrong colour or the wrong shoes or they get their cars attempted to be car-jacked or something like that, that's the reality that I live in here.
He belongs to probably more than likely the thirteenth street gang, that's the Roman numerals of the tattoo.
They all claim to be tough in LA, usually this is the end result for most of them
Craig Harvey 11:00
That's a real tough battle to deal with what Hollywood tells them, what they see on television and what the newspapers say, ‘cause nobody ever reports the whole story, you know everyone wants to show the blood, guts and gore and the glamour and they don't show the tedium, they don't show the everyday hero stuff that is done out there in the trenches and that's what I try to do and let them know that it's not just about the dead, but it's about the living as well the people who have to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.
Hopefully when you leave here you will take away something that will burn brightly somewhere, in your heart, in your brain, that you're not invincible, that bad things happen to people who don't expect bad things to happen.
Seeing dead babies there for no reason, I mean terrible, I mean totally changed my lifestyle and hopefully my friends will and I see a lot of things we do now they like, you know, not put myself in situations in which I can die, ‘cause I don't wanna' be laying there like all these people
Do you think it will really change your view of things?
Yeah, I don't want my parents to have to go see me like that.
I've never seen a dead body before, it's just horrific, it's gross, and the facts of how they died is just even worse and it could be me, but after this it won't be. Never.
Night and day half a dozen police helicopters patrol over this sea of lights. It is a straggling, dislocated city a hundred and twenty kilometres long and eighty wide. A juxtaposition of suburban ghettos. Fortresses for the rich such as Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, patrolled by private guards, and war zones such as Rampart and Hampton where Hispanic gangs kill each other for supremacy in the distribution of drugs.
An infrared camera detects a suspect through the heat given off by his body. But the old method of spot checks is the most effective. The number one offence in Los Angeles is drug abuse, regardless of the age or the sex of the offendant. And drugs can be hidden anywhere. These teenagers have broken the 9 o'clock curfew imposed on the under 18s.
Uniform Police Officer (2) 15:33
If you're not 21 years old, in California, you can't have alcohol and all these kids are 15 and 16.
And do you suspect them of having drugs or something, to smoke?
Uniform Police Officer
They smoke alright.
The deployment of force seems excessive, but the rule is that there should be one policeman per suspect no matter how trivial the offence. In Los Angeles things can degenerate quickly. Everyone is armed.
Uniform Police Officer (2) 15:59
A lot of these kids, half of ‘em do not have two parents in the house. They don't respect their parents and they have a hard time respecting the law, so a lot of times we're playing the role of the parents.
Uniform Police Officer (3) 16:12
Yeah it does make you feel pretty powerless, it makes you feel like you're spinning your wheel and it makes it possible to come out here and continue to mess up their lives.
They have all been fined before, and the police know they will be again.
Steven Dowell 16:31
Steven Dowell 17:10
I am astounded by the imagination of killers, of homicide, of people that are involved in homicide. So this is just an example of the knives, of some of the knives that have been collected from homicide cases. What we do during the autopsy is to compare features of the marks in the skin or the bone or whatever material its in to features of the knife.
On this monitor is the picture of the gunshot residue particle of a standard size and shape of gunshot residue particle.
Cheryl Goodman 17:50
A lot of times the insurance policy won't pay out, there'll be a clause - if the person died because he's taken his life himself it cancels out the insurance policy.
The coroner's conclusions are often decisive in criminal procedure and juries always attribute great importance to them. When Dr. Ortiz, one of the 18 medical examiners, comes into the witness stand to give evidence in a homicide case, he knows that he can send the suspect to prison or have him freed.
Pedro Ortiz 18:21
Its not unusual that the interpretational findings come out of the findings in the forensic scenario, either depending on how truthful the expert is and how well he knows what he's talking about, he can send you to prison or free you, because the expert is supposed to be unbiased.
This gentleman here, we suspect he fell into shallow water in a swimming pool. So what we will do first is check the body for injuries. We'll do the head and we'll check for head injuries and then we'll do the head at the end to document if they have any injuries there.
Cheryl Goodman 19:10
The family, by law, cannot refuse. If it falls under the jurisdiction of the coroner, it's the coroner, the pathologist; it's his decision, because he has to determine the death. So the family cannot refuse an autopsy.
One of the main purposes of this whole process, is not only to establish the cause of death but also to positively identify the victim, the person - who we think he is.
Cheryl Goodman 19:44
And the doctor is only looking for the cause and you know depending on what type of death it is, whether it be a gunshot wound, where they'll do a complete autopsy because they must so they can testify in court as to the cause of death, so the case can be prosecuted
Pedro Ortiz 20:01
We are expecting neck trauma, according to the investigators report if we examine the neck, it will be a separate entity.
A fracture of the neck could mean homicide if the victim has been pushed into the water. Hence the importance of the autopsy.
Pedro Ortiz 20:24
Well we are going to weigh the organs and inspect them to see for any kind of infection. People think that an autopsy is like killing cows in a slaughterhouse, that we destroy the body, and we don't destroy the body, an autopsy is a surgical procedure, done with a great respect for the deceased and for the family. I have ruled out the possibility of trauma, he probably drowned, so we have to consider if he was on any drugs when he went into the pool, that will be our next consideration.
Although crime and violent death are everyday fare for Barbara Nelson, she still relaxes with a good "thriller". Barbara is a Coroner's investigator, though she was trained as a nurse. Her colleagues are often ex-policeman and women or retired military.
Barbara Nelson 21:57
Not everybody can do this job, it's just like some people can't do nursing because blood bothers them or something like that. We help the living by investigating the dead so no I don't think we're morbid, I know a lot of people think we are, but we're not. We're just human like everybody else.
A coordinator takes the calls coming in from the police or the hospitals and sends the on-duty investigator to make an initial report and to recuperate the body.
The homicide department of South Central, the hottest area of Los Angeles, has just announced a street shooting. It's Barbara's first homicide of the day.
Barbara Nelson 23:04
To be honest there's no retirement in nursing, and my father was a police officer and so I thought this would be a beautiful marriage of the two fields, police work and medicine. And of course there are prospects for retirement in this job, so its sort of got every goal covered.
South Central was the epicentre of the most violent race riots America has ever known. Here, the police are hated for their brutality. The Hispanics, rapidly gaining social status, are replacing black families broken up by unemployment. But at night, 42nd street is the territory of prostitutes and their armed protectors.
Frank Weber 24:05
Someone heard something about a shot around 12:30; someone heard something about 2:30. We believe that it is probably narcotics related, possibly a bad debt, and the neighbourhood is quite cliquish and staying together, they're not giving us the information that we need.
Barbara Nelson 24:25
We're going to be testing his hands to see if there's any residue of a weapon being fired, either if he got residue from the weapon that was used or if he had one in his hand possibly.
In America, the temperature of a corpse is taken in the liver as opposed to the rectum in many other countries. This will allow an approximate estimate of the time of death. The victim has his fly open. The detectives would like to find the prostitutes working here last night.
Barbara Nelson 25:14
A child discovered the body, and while they didn't take the child's name as a witness because of being a child, and the retaliation in some of these areas, the gangs, somebody lives in the area that did this, and he's going to say well I know who the little girl is, well therefore I'm going to come and get her. So I'm not putting her name in my report.
Question to local man 25:37
Do you think they will solve this crime?
Local man 25:40
This one here? If they have enough evidence they probably will, but if I was to see it or observe it, I don't think so. That's what happens all the time, it happens all the time. The evidence is not there.
Barbara Nelson 25:57
At this particular point we don't know who he is. So I'll go back, and I'm going to run a description of the registered owner, to see pretty much if it comes back to him, plus we're going to run his plates.
It's just a shame that you know they did it for something very small, overlooked or incorrectly obtained and the whole case can be thrown out and they're walking about laughing at the system.
I'm really surprised, he's a lot younger than I thought he was going to be, born in '62, this gentleman has a very long record, nine fire felonies or arrests. A lot of these are for strong armed robbery, possession of stolen property, a lot of drug involvement. He's been in jail at least ten years of his life.
Craig Harvey 27:39
Every homicide, we try to come here.
Pedro Ortiz 28:00
In Los Angeles we have probably one of the highest incidence of violent deaths by firearms in the whole United States.
Craig Harvey 28:20
You know what we find, what we find is the bullet, the bullet is very valuable evidence
Question to Craig Harvey
Because our department can match a bullet to a gun, if the bullet is in good enough shape.
Pedro Ortiz 28:37
The reason there is no hole is, the victim probably had his mouth open, oh that would explain it, we'll see.
Frank Weber 29:45
The autopsy has been inconclusive. The slug has not been found. Detective Frank Weber of the South Central homicide bureau is not hopeful. The investigation is at a standstill. This won't be popular with his lieutenant. Promotions in this, the city's most prestigious department depend on the success rate.
Right now we don't seem to have any real firm leads. We never recovered a bullet, which would have been very good evidence, and we're just right now trying to locate witnesses.
Today only one murder in three ends with the suspect being charged. Criminality has dropped by 10% but adolescent and unpunished crimes are at their highest level ever.
John M. Dunkin 30:09
Unfortunately we're seeing a larger and larger number of our suspects and victims are juveniles. I think young people are far more sophisticated now and worldly than they were 25 years ago. A lot of the innocence of youth is gone, growing up in gang infested areas.
The owner of the apartment reported these men. The only things they have in common are drug dependency and a substantial criminal record. Eight out of the ten suspects were on parole and one was wanted by the police, but no incriminating evidence has been found in the house, used for dealing "crack" except a few pipes. The result: nine fines for lack of identity papers and one arrest.
Black bandana youth 31:39
Free Pooh, Trek and Hapsy, those guys are in jail and when they come out they're going to have to write something on top right here, ‘cause it means that they're out of jail.
That's it you don't sell dope?
No. Only this, we get high, we buy it, we don't sell nothing.
Like they say there's two ways, the right way and the wrong way, and this is the wrong.
It's the ghetto way.
We just did it the bad way, everything we did wrong was bad, we never did nothing right, it's just the way. Fucked up life. Street life.
Gangster life, the mob game.
Tell me about yourself Chino, how old are you?
13, and you are a gang member?
Already? What do you do all day?
Smoke bud, kick it in the corner
I got friends that were killed, got shot, died. I got a lot of friends went that way.
How old were they?
18, 17, 16, youngsters, like us.
From the walls of the North Hollywood Police Headquarters stare the faces of the gangland hit-parade, the men the police most want to catch. This is a briefing of the anti-gang unit.
Before each night patrol in one of the most agitated areas in Los Angeles, the policemen meet their senior officers for an update on the main gangs activities.
Sergeant Michael Rogers is a little blasé. He's been in the Los Angeles police service for 26 years. Every night he supervises the 12 cars, which patrol the area around the port. Here, too, criminality is falling. Only 80 murders since the beginning of the year.
Michael Roger 35:02
We can ride around for hours and nothing really significant happens and then all of a sudden all hell can break loose.
This call is about violent family brawl in a Hispanic area. Common-place week-end work for the police.
The husband, violent and apparently drugged, is taken to the police headquarters.
Michael Roger 35:43
Some people have described police work as 90% boredom and 10% shear hell.
There's a Hispanic gang lives on this block right here, with probably 2 to 3 hundred members. We have a lot of shootings, problems in this area from rival gangs. It's territorial and its drugs. Combination of the both.
One of the problems is the gang members have a distinctive clothing that they wear and a lot of the younger people, not gang members, for whatever reason, maybe stylish reasons, they tend to wear those same types of clothes. Well they can easily be mistaken for a gang member and get shot.
The boy hiding his face has been shot in the leg. Perhaps a random bullet, as is frequently the case. The suspects have disappeared.
Patricia Fant 38:29
This is a Cobray, and it's a 9mm calibre, it's a 9mm luger and you'll see some of the gangs have this particular firearm, at one of the reasons is you can get extended magazines for it, and it holds a lot more ammunition, up to 30 rounds of ammo.
Everyday the sheriff's office of Los Angeles county sends sealed envelopes containing items for analysis to the Scientific Police Laboratory. Last year the lab. Treated 70,000 crimes.
Despite 160 specialists in criminal law, scientists, technicians, and progress in genetic testing, fewer crimes are being resolved than twenty years ago. The increase in spending - $14 million per year for this laboratory - has not been enough to keep up with the development of crime. The specialists are swamped by files on drug offences. One case out of two.
Patricia Fant 39:43
Some of these weapons were taken from a crime, others were donated or turned in.
The armoury of the Los Angeles sheriff's laboratory is, after the F.B.I.'s, one of the most complete in the United States. Enough here to arm the mafia in a country like Colombia or Tchetchenya. Combat weapons such as Kalachnikovs are common. You can buy them off the street.
Patricia Fant 04:09
This box is for our drugfire program. It's a computer that takes images of the heads of cartridge cases after they've been fired and the deputy researches the cartridge case with other ones that are similar and he tries to pick out two crimes that are connected. So this amount comes in, I would say, a couple of times a week we get a box like this and its full and there's probably thirty, thirty-five cases, minimum, in here
Barry Fisher 40:49
We are so crowded that its very difficult to do work the way we would like to do it The laboratories are able to immediately get in and do the kind of work that we ought to be doing. We would help the detectives more quickly identify who the suspect in the case was. Most detectives will tell you that if they don't have a clear suspect within the first 72 hours, the first three days, the likelihood of that case being solved deteriorates considerably.
Second, third and fourth hearings are frequent in the criminal courts and each laboratory is careful to keep organ and tissue for several years after difficult criminal cases.
John Brockart 41:52
What I'm working on is a sexual assault case from the Coroner's department, where the victim was alleged to be sexually assaulted and then murdered and then dumped in the Antelope Valley area of the desert, in northern Los Angeles County. My main job right now is to try and identify in this kid whether any sperm is present or not. That will give us some information that we can then take for genetic testing to determine who the male perpetrator was who donated his sperm to this victim.
Most of the time, so far, in my experience, we don't find evidence, sometimes, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. That's the hardest thing to deal with, that you have good reason to believe that somebody was sexually assaulted, but there's no evidence to support it forensically.
Experienced criminologists like Elizabeth Devine can't keep pace. Elisabeth studies 15 to 20 crimes, of which 5 are rapes, per week. Each case presents a puzzle, which she takes several months to piece together.
Elizabeth Devine 43:05
We start with the police report, the autopsy protocol and statements, very important to look at the crime scene, all the evidence and then look at what we've received from the police department and the medical examiner and look at the whole case together and see how things progress, see how the evidence pans out according to what has been seen and said by your witnesses and you're suspects.
It's a team effort, it's not me by myself it's all of us working together with the Coroner, the Police Departments and the criminalists, coming together with a common goal, and that is that we find the suspects, and justice can be served. But I also know that some of these things can be prevented, so I do all that I can to prevent a crime from occurring in my home, or with my family. But you never know what's going to happen and as an aside I have, this is going to sound very morbid, but I do have blood samples from my children in my freezer so that if anything happened to them I would be able to identify them.
Barry Fisher 44:24
I think that people who work in law enforcement pay a price for this type of career, and the price is that they lose their innocence.
When crimes are traced, punishment takes place in this beehive-like building in the city-centre. Several dozen death sentences are passed here annually.
These members of a Chinese gang machine-pistolled a birthday party because they weren't invited, killing two teenagers and wounding seven others. They risk capital punishment.
Judge J.D. Smith 46:21
The gang related murders, and almost every case I do, at least half of them, as I just showed you, are nearly all murders, maybe all death penalty cases that in at least half of them a witness has been murdered in everyone of my cases.
The next day in the same courtroom another gangleader is tried for a double killing before a peoples' jury. The state prosecutor asked us not to film the witness in the stand. He took part in a drugs transaction which went badly wrong, and his testimony helped condemn the gangleader in the white shirt to the electric chair, but first to death row, which he entered on October 31st 1997.
Vidal Herrera is a model of success. He is of Mexican origin and used to collect the corpses for the Coroner's office. He set up on his own eight years ago, becoming boss and sole employee of the only private autopsy business in town. As this is a recession-proof activity, Vidal is a contented man. His free phone number: AUTOPSY earned him a million dollars in 1996.
Vidal Herrera 47:43
We actually charge maybe $1500 below them. Because of monetary constraints they're doing less and less autopsies and the public is not being served by this, and unfortunately the public has to call somebody and they call us.
In particular areas they may not have any confidence in the doctors that are available, the doctors may not want to do it. They are really left with no alternative so eventually they just call us. Here is an example again where they may allege, they're not saying it, but they are going to allege medical malpractice, misdiagnosis.
To reduce costs the private autopsy of this young mother who died in hospital takes place in a backroom of a funeral parlour, next to the coffin showroom. Autopsies like this are carried out by a medical examiner for $2000 a time. Vidal Herrera acts as assistant. While the three hour long autopsy takes place a funeral service is going on behind the partition wall. A 22 year-old gang member, Armando, has been shot through his head and is being laid to rest.
Vidal Herrera is far from being a saint. He became acquainted with death very young, here in the streets of East Los Angeles, where he spent his turbulent childhood.
Vidal Herrera 05:03
I was living here at the time as a teenager I was working at a pizza restaurant, and I met a Vietnam conscientious objector, and he's the one who suggested that if I wanted to improve my life, I go to school and to work in a morgue. Of course I thought he was crazy, but he said that's the best place to work because nobody bothers you.
I was in gangs, I killed two kids, I got a girl pregnant. Typical things that happen, typical kids. But you can rise above that and improve yourself.
I became a law enforcement officer, despite the fact that I did a lot of things, but I never got caught.
My dream car is a 1951 Scooter-Baker bullet nosed commander convertible.
Mine was a '55, this is a '56. I got my first car for $135, I was 15 year s old, I paid $10 a week and I was working at a pizza restaurant.
I'm proud of what I've accomplished. Yes it is a business, but that's how I make my living, you know, I have to feed my family somehow. It just so happens that I happen to be working with death.
The police have discovered a body near the Santa Monica highway. The coroner has already arrived. The body has a wound in its side and the rescue service are sure its homicide. But Barbara Nelson isn't so sure.
Barbara Nelson 52:03
It looks like a possible drug overdose. There is evidence of a syringe being there and some balloons, which they use to store the heroine in. It looks its probably that way, there's no trauma.
Insect bites and larva in the eyes lead Barbara to judge the death to be forty-eight hours old. The man is Hispanic, has no papers and no address. He is classed as "John DOE". Unknown. He was living in these bushes with others in his condition, the John and Jane DOE's who represent the coroner's nightmare. Bodies often found in an advanced state of decomposition. No family, no identity... files that drag on.
Barbara and the detectives from this violent part of town share, for a moment, a sense of relief. It's apparently a clear-cut case. This means a brief investigation and unaltered local homicide statistics.
Craig Harvey 53:14
48 year-old possible suicide, 45 year-old drug overdose - cocaine, 41 year-old natural death due to alcoholism. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13; 13 cases that came in in the last 24 hours that are actually coming into this facility.
Craig Harvey 53:36
I don't think its tough to live here.... But I think it is is tough to live here like some people live here. The people with money to burn, and limousines, with nice houses who live behing gated walls, or gated communities. I think thereis a lot of the have and have not going on here. And there are a lot of folks who think it is easier to make there money through violence than it is by going out there and work. If you tell somebody, if you want what Ive got then get a job, then theyd say ‘well Im notworking in the mail room'.
Paula Cazares 54:16
My son, he was so special to me. He proved it to me. He went and turned and turned 18 and he proved to me he got so many A's out of school. A - B.
Daisy Cazares 54:29
He was a gangster; he was a gang member.. BUT that was all. He was trying to change, he just graduated June 24th. Just graduation day.
You were surprised when you learnt he was a gang member?
Daisy Cazares 54:52
He was not gang banging out there. He was still in the car; he was a passenger. They got his money from his pocket. To count to go buy food for his family. He was counting the money with his head down like this.. The guy came shooting from the back; and they shot him in the neck.
Interview question 55:12
Did the Police come to you?
Paula Cazares 55:15
No. I don't know anything about the police. The police doent show up to me. I just know him that he died at 12 a clock the same day.
Daisy Cazares 55:23
Its been a week since my brothers death.. and I have not spoke to no police. They say they can give no information because of their investigation. But they don't come and say ‘look miss, this is your son', they just.. we went to pick up his clothes and that was it.
Jose didn't live with his mother and sister, but with his gang in a small apartment near by. Today his friends are more affected by their drug taking at last nights party than by Joses death last week.
Interview question 57:00
Do you fear death?
No. It's what I know and it happens.
I know I might get killed. If I ever try to leave the gang, then they'd try to kill me. I gotta have love for the gang.
Joses mother is divorced. Her ex-husband has gone back to Mexico. A week after the murder she still hasn't been able to raise the $3,000 to pay for the funeral. The gang from 18th street will make up the difference.
The whole gang turns out for Joses funeral. The way they see it they are his only real family.
Jose was a model student according to his mother, a reformed delinquent according to his sister, and a group leader for his friends. He is buried in the prairie-like cemetery of Forest Lawn, Hollywood.
Neither the grief of the family, nor the gravity of the occasion have much effect on the gang. They defy death every day through their use of weapons and drugs. They also play out their roles in front of the camera: the tough guys of 18th street.
(Jose's friends make) This is their special sign, so that no one should forget to which gang they belong. One of the most powerful in Los Angeles.
Nine murders out of ten are linked to the gangs. These boys and girls are born into violence, and will pay any price in the attempt to snatch their share of the American dream.