John Villesange, 17, calls himself Chuco on his MySpace profile, which features a background of purple skulls and the text of a hymn titled “A Gangster’s Prayer.”
In his photo gallery, Villesange displays the BWS (Barrio West Side) tattoo across his knuckles and group shots of his “home boyz” flashing gang signs.
“if u ever meet me u knw im a cool ass vato n one of the realist motha fucka out there,” is how he describes himself on the page. “If u talkin shit bout me its all good…bout id rather u say it straight up 2 me!!! then we can see wat it do!!”
Villesange last logged into MySpace on June 28—the same day Villesange allegedly shot and killed an 18-year-old gang rival in the Hopewell/Mann Street area of Santa Fe.
Almost everything you need to know about street gangs in Santa Fe you can find on MySpace, and there’s nothing illegal about it.
An SFR investigation using the popular social networking site turned up more than 60 local youth and young adults openly claiming gang affiliation on their MySpace profiles. SFR linked Villesange with his MySpace page through a name search and received visual confirmation from a Santa Fe police gang detective.
In addition to Villesange’s page, SFR turned up MySpace pages connected to two other youths arrested in connection with the June 28 shooting of Pedro Maldonado.
Francisco Montoya, who claims affiliation with the West Side Locos XIII gang, throws gang signs in pictures where he’s posing with his family. Matt Lujan, a Mann St or MST member, uses the phrase “18 with a bullet” as his handle.
While Santa Fe Police Department has identified dozens of street gangs and cliques, two main sets control the city. The West Side gangs—Barrio West Side, MST and WSL—have merged under the color purple, while their rivals, Sureños 13, who wear blue, inhabit the Southside and Airport Road areas.
“The reality is that gangs have been around forever,” SFPD Capt. Gary Johnson tells SFR. “The problem is that now, with technology, these gangs are better armed and they communicate better. They have the internet, Twitter, MySpace.”
On their MySpace pages, gang members talk openly about drugs and how to get firearms. They post photos of themselves holding weapons.
Many claiming to be with the Sureños have posted notes paying tribute to Maldonado, known among them as “Yako.”
Whereas 18-year-old WSL Adrian Fierro recently changed his heading to “Kill Sureno When I $ee $ureno.”
They have no fear of being caught.
“They’re not shy about it…To be honest with you, it’s because New Mexico has very weak laws,” New Mexico Gang Task Force Chairman Sam White tells SFR.
Currently, New Mexico lags regionally when it comes to gang legislation. During the 2009 legislative session, Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Doña Ana, sponsored bills to bar gang recruitment and to enhance sentences for crimes found to be gang-motivated—both laws already in place in Arizona and Colorado.
Each bill died in the House Judiciary Committee without a hearing. Committee Chairman Rep. Al Park, D-Bernalillo, says the bill just wasn’t ready.
“Right now, New Mexico is seen by the gang community as a safe haven,” White says. “Why would you risk setting up your gang activity in a neighboring state when you can just come to New Mexico and get half the punishment and half the time if you’re caught.”
The fiercest enemies of anti-gang laws have been civil liberty groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which believe anti-gang legislation would infringe on the constitutional right to associate.
“[I]f saying you’re a member of a gang means that you are a criminal without any proof that you committed a crime, then that infringes on your freedom to associate,” Diane Wood, policy director and lobbyist for ACLU-NM, says.
Wood adds that there are more effective ways of combating gang violence than increasing the criminal penalties.
“I don’t really think they sit around in their gang clubhouse reading the law to see what happens if they commit a crime, that they get a two-year enhancement,” Wood says.
No, but they might if it’s on MySpace.