Former CRS Mediator, New York and Washington, D.C. Offices; Associate Professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
A: ... Even though I criticize the approach I think we used in the youth board with the street gangs, there were some memorable moments. I was talking with the president of the Royal Bishops, who in one situation where I was involved in got into a gang fight, where they were insulted. It was just nonsense. It was just bullshit, but someone hurled an insult. This was a gang much less structured, just a group of guys that hang out, hurled an insult at the vice-president, who was kind of a psychotic personality anyway. And they wanted revenge. You're supposed to call the police. You let them know in the very beginning that there are
protocols that you have to adhere to. If you hear of them engaging in an act of violence, than you have a responsibility as a public official and as a citizen, to let law enforcement know. If this is a problem for them, let them know not to discuss these things with you. Your ego ends up getting in the way, so the situation happens, "We're gonna get these blah blah blah." Packing stuff up, this other group, sort of wannabes, were eight blocks south of where this main territory of the Royal Bishops. They knew these guys were down there, they hung out on the stoop of this particular building. Part of the gang, about 15 of this group, goes straight down Columbus Avenue, another section of the gang do you know New York at all?
A: All right, so you know where Columbus Avenue is, on the West Side? One segment of the gang is going straight down Columbus Avenue. This gang is literally nine blocks south on Columbus Avenue. Another section of the gang is going south on Amsterdam Avenue, and they're going to cut across on 81st Street, and a third segment of the gang is going down Central Park West. I'm saying call the police. I know these guys. I can talk them out of this. I was saying, "This is stupid, you shouldn't be doing this. You're ruining your careers. You know this is crazy. Someone is going to get really hurt. It was a ridiculous insult. If it was an insult, pick up the guy, and have a, what we used to call, a fair one, or a one on one." Then I'm saying, "Okay, Wallace, you're at 78th Street. You're at 77th Street. Call the police." I'm so torn. All of a sudden realize we're at 71st Street, and the gang is there. Frankie Gonzalez pulls out this pistol, and shoots right across my line of vision. I'm like right here, and he shoots: Bam, bam. Fortunately it didn't hit anybody, amazingly. The groups converge on the other side. They pull out knives and stab people. Two years later, he had quit that gang and had not gotten caught. I brought him up to my house in Queens, in the suburbs. Gave him driving lessons, showed him how I lived. Modeled a new persona for him. He actually became a police officer.
So the notion that I actually reached out and touched somebody, with all the ambiguity of that work, all the frustration. For those six years I laid hands on this one person, and I don't know what he's doing now. I like to feel that I had a hand in turning his life around that's really quite something.