Smile for the Devil

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Throughout the video, faces of police officers have been blurred out to avoid any legal snarls, Diablo says. But he claims that he's heard from officers who wish their faces had been visible. He also believes that the video serves some sort of crime-fighting purpose by illuminating the level of violence on city streets.

To get the police perspective on that, New Times sent a copy of the DVD to Lt. Patrick Maney, who heads the violent crimes investigation unit of the West Palm Beach Police Department.

He is not a fan.

"Obviously, nobody was drug into a fight," he says. "But there were a couple of scenes in there where people said, 'I don't want to fight you; I don't want to hit you,' but your filmmakers are goading them and calling them pussies and stuff," Maney says. "Several of them, there's an out-and-out attack. You put a boot in somebody's face, that's a felony. That's deadly force."

But can't something be said for the footage, lurid though it is, of the random street crime -- the apparent hit-and-run, the shootings?

"Are you looking to find the good in this video?" Maney asks. "I don't really find the good from a police officer's standpoint, other than that it's not antipolice. But I don't believe it shows our young people, or the youth culture of today, in a very positive light. Maybe if it were to be viewed by a professor or a dean in a filmmaking institute or curriculum at a university, they might find a lot of positive things in it, because it is real, it is raw.

"I would much prefer that the opportunity to make such a video was not available, because that would mean that these kids were not going out and beating the crap out of each other for no reason."

At minute 43 begins the most compelling single story on Dirty South. At a show, a tall, heavyset Latino teenager with hair like a porcupine bounces against a bald, shirtless man moshing on the open floor. The teen takes a step back, reaches into his vest, and slides on a set of brass knuckles. Someone notices, and he gets jumped -- punched, grabbed, kneed in the head. As he walks to the parking lot across the street, with the courthouse in the background, four others jump him. "Come on, one on one!" someone yells. The kid gets kicked hard in the head. The gathered crowd finally dissipates -- "leave the kid alone!," someone yells -- and the voice behind the camera, recognizable as Diablo's, tries to make calm.

"The back of his head looks like a wet melon," Diablo says watching the footage. "That's what happens to you, especially when you've got a Hiawatha haircut." And the story came with a happy ending, he says: The guy ended up joining a crew. "This actually boosted him up. I got respect for him. He never backed down."

The victim himself, Carlos Carreras, was 16 years old at the time the footage was shot. He tells New Times he was drunk. He slipped on the brass knuckles when a skinhead started to give him trouble. After that, it was "just me on the floor, a lot of people punching and kicking me."

Now 18, the Hialeah punk rocker says he still goes to shows but hasn't encountered problems since.

"They're like a pack of wolves," he says of the hardcore crowd. "Skinheads, I guess they see one of their friends fighting and they think it's an excuse to beat the shit out of another person. I've seen them beat other people up, and it's kind of wrong. But to each their own. I guess they like to do that shit, but it's not really cool."

It turns out, Carreras got off easy. In another segment of the video, another fight victim is getting a much worse beating. He's been felled by a skinny guy named Matt, who is socking his limp head. Then Matt swings a black boot into the guy's face.

"Now that broke his jaw," Diablo says as he watches the DVD. "He had his jaw wired shut for a month after that."

Then there's a cut to another haggard-looking face: big ears, no hair, dark spots on the skin. A voice asks: "What's going on, Billy. How are you today? I see you've got two black eyes. So what's up?"

"I got in the two fights," Billy replies. "One on Thursday and one on Friday."

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Sam Eifling
Contact: Sam Eifling