Sunday, 1 May 2011

Too strong a signal

Criminals, especially those in gangs, get tattooed. There's always a risk that a gang member will sell out: rat out all his colleagues to the police in exchange for clemency, go into hiding, and take a job in the formal economy. If you get a facial tattoo letting everyone see you're a member of the Mongrel Mob, you've credibly displayed your commitment to the gang by ruling out options in the legitimate sector. That's about the strongest signal. But other hard-to-hide tattoos work as well.

Other tattoos work to signal your achievements to others who can decipher the code. The coded messages tell other gang members how many rivals you've killed, but aren't sufficient basis for police prosecution.

Unless you're a complete idiot. HT: LemmusLemmus
Inked on the pudgy chest of a young Pico Rivera gangster who had been picked up and released on a minor offense was the scene of a 2004 liquor store slaying that had stumped Lloyd for more than four years.

Each key detail was right there: the Christmas lights that lined the roof of the liquor store where 23-year-old John Juarez was gunned down, the direction his body fell, the bowed street lamp across the way and the street sign — all under the chilling banner of RIVERA KILLS, a reference to the gang Rivera-13.

As if to seal the deal, below the collarbone of the gang member known by the alias "Chopper" was a miniature helicopter raining down bullets on the scene.

Lloyd's discovery of the tattoo in 2008 launched a bizarre investigation that soon led to Anthony Garcia's arrest for the shooting. Then sheriff's detectives, posing as gang members, began talking to Garcia, 25, in his holding cell. They got a confession that this week led to a first-degree murder conviction in a killing investigators had once all but given up hope of solving.


Investigators don't believe Garcia's elaborate tattoo was a rash decision. Photos from several bookings over the years show the mural on his chest evolving as he added details to the tattooed murder scene — until one day Lloyd saw them as a whole and something clicked.
That's even dumber than sending out a Tweet about a crime you've committed while debating and voting for legislation that increases the penalties for the crime you've committed; in the latter case, you could at least expect that police would be reluctant to pursue things.

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