Bangin' in L-Dub

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What Sister Rachel sees happening not only in Lake Worth but surrounding communities, she explains, is "an immigrant community whose youngest generation is empowered by education and exposed to a negative and destructive form of leadership.

"Especially if the parent is focused on survival and the child is focused on lifestyle and culture."

In fact, while Hermanson was probing the murder, some of Andres' friends told him where to look. Visits to MySpace and C-Pixel turned up what he calls "nasty-grams" — threats, insults, taunts bouncing back and forth between Sur 13 and 18th Street.

Piecing together clues and interviewing distraught family members, police learned what had happened: A pissed-off Sur 13 member who lived out in Greenacres drove with a group to Lake Worth looking to start shit. When his target couldn't be located, they drove around in their green SUV until they spotted Andres over on F Street. A man identified as Miguel Lemu-Flores, then 23, allegedly poked his head out of the window. "What barrio you claim?" he asked menacingly.

Andres exhaled a big cloud of cigarette smoke, and Lemu-Flores asked again. "I said what barrio you claim, homes?"

With another puff, Andres said, "Makin' Life Krazy." Nine bullets sailed from the SUV in his direction, killing him and wounding two others. Months later, two teens who had been in the vehicle were arrested, charged with being an accessory, and are doing time. One, Francisco "Paco" Garcia, begged to be tried as an adult, because he feared retaliation if he ended up in a juvenile lockup. Lemu-Flores, Hermanson says, is now believed to be in Mexico.

"Yeah, the bitch that shot Silent ran," acknowledges Jose, a cocky 16-year-old Lake Worth MLK member, in an e-mail to a reporter. "Cuz he's a lil ho."

Memorials to Silent abound. Jose set up his MySpace page (http://profile. myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user. viewprofile&friendID=48471799) as a tribute not only to his fallen friend but to the MLK gang. His terse narrative of Silent's life and death is as succinct as any:

"Silent was a North Side MLK gang member he was one of the best fighters we ever had. He studyed the bible an' went to church but he was always down for the set... silent wasn't no pussy that disrespect his barrio — he gave his life 4 what he believed in... if i die i wanna die like silent cuz i wanna die 4 what i believe in — barrio MLK."

On MySpace, Jose, filling in the box that site owners generally use to explain their general range of interests, enumerated these: "Chilln wit my homies, beating the shit out of scraps [rivals] with my homies, smoking out with my homies, ridin' out with my homies, taggin', going 2 places deep as fuck with my homies, watching movies, also tryn to keep my ass out of trouble, but it don't help none."

Until a few weeks ago , at least one Lake Worth gang maintained an active, dedicated website. Krazy Locos, affiliated with MLK, issued threats to "Sewer 13" and other opponents and even taunted police. KL Joker, a 19-year-old member, bathed in the glory. "I know police R listening and reading this... showing me on TV like yesterday 3/26/06 on Univision and Fox 29. Thanxx for the rekognition... I didn't want it, but hey."

Within days, the website, along with Joker's profile, went dark. Naturally, Hermanson noticed. Most likely, he updated his "Book of Knowledge" — a black binder with a red bookmark on his desk where he keeps track of local gang members: street name, real name, description, tattoos, web page.

Many teenagers proudly represent the L-Dub online. Like Dreamer561 MLK or Lazie Loco, who says "Krzy Loco to the muthaphukkin fullest... fuck Sureno."

An opposing team member, Sureno Soldier, takes the opposite tack: "Surenos don't die, motherfuckers, we multiply. Kill a Norteño, win a prize. Kill a Sureno, your whole fucking family dies!"

Hermanson is used to outsiders shocked by the cutthroat mentality. "Hatfields and McCoys," he says with a laugh. "Crips and Bloods. They're fighting over north and south, over red and blue. There's no more answers than that. It makes no sense at all — to us. But to them, it makes sense."

Sister Rachel begs to differ: "It makes all the sense in the world, because it's about ego. It's about turf. Unfortunately, they have their own rites of passage. It's Lord of the Flies all over again."

Time and again, Hermanson would click on a kid's profile and find a valuable clue. "These guys make it easy for you," he says. He finds one kid's profile, "Tocho_MLK," and says, "I busted that dude." And now he knows where to read about him in cyberspace.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton