The O.G.’s Are Falling – Part 4
(This is the Fourth Segment of a multiple-part series focusing on significant Mexican Mafia members who have died)
In the violent world of prison conquests, Mexican Mafia Carnales love to wrap themselves around popular quotes that reference valor and the life of a warrior. A favorite, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, goes like this: “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing while others judge us by what we have already done.” For every EME member who demonstrates his continued commitment and loyalty to a ruthless organization, death, destruction, ferocity, and cruelty are their constant companions and weapons of intimidation. Betrayal touched many in the treacherous world of back stabbing and politicking yet some were somehow miraculously spared the ultimate punishment. The following two contrasting accounts will portray the futility that can occur when fate intervenes in the life of an EME brother.
In 1959, Richard “Richie” Ruiz was convicted of a street gang homicide in Bakersfield, California, with crime partner Rudy “Cheyenne” Cadena. Richie established himself with the first wave of Mexican Mafia members, participating in several murders while at San Quentin State Prison in the service of his prison gang. A boxing champion, he spent most of his confinement in the Adjustment Centers of several prisons and in 1969, at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, was responsible for recruiting the largest one time concentration of Mexican Mafia members when he sponsored eleven “Young Guns” into the organization. Richie’s violent reputation inside the California state prison system earned him the ongoing respect and loyalty of his confederates until he suffered a head injury in a scuffle at Folsom. After being struck on the head with a pipe, he spent some days in the prison hospital where he was observed, x-rayed, then cleared and released to the prison yard. As a result of his head injury, his demeanor was altered somewhat and his speech was loud and not like the soft spoken, yet deadly, Richie everyone knew and “loved” so well. The Carnales on the yard held a meeting and determined that his apparent diminished mental capacity could possibly be a detriment to the EME. Daniel “Spider” Arriaga was chosen to carry out the hit assignment on the “good” Brother Richie who had served them so loyally. When Spider confronted him on the yard, Richie instinctively beat him to the punch and fired a rapid three-punch combination on his assailant who fell to the ground and dropped the “shank” that was supposed to terminate Richie’s membership. As prison guards quickly responded to the scene and “gaffled” up the two inmates, Richie and Spider were both in handcuffs, each escorted in different directions. Richie called out to Spider, “You tell the Carnales, next time, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job!” Richie Ruiz left the EME the same way he came in – swinging from the hips. He was one of the lucky ones. Richie died a natural death.
Longtime Mexican Mafia member Nicholas “Nico” Velasquez was not as fortunate as Richie. On May 17, 1988, he was stabbed to death at the California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi by fellow member and cell partner Gabriel “Sleepy” Huerta. One of very few members of non-Mexican descent (he was Puerto-Rican) Nico was from an L.A. Mexican-American barrio known as “Puente,” located in the city of La Puente, east of downtown Los Angeles. After entering the California prison system in the late 1960’s, Nico was recruited into the Mexican Mafia in 1971 at San Quentin State Prison and participated in several murders between 1971 until his abrupt membership termination 17 years later. Nico’s first confirmed prison kill occurred on June 28, 1972, at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, California, when he and Aryan Brotherhood member Robert “Blinky” Griffin teamed up to stab an inmate to death. Like most imprisoned EME members, Nico eluded prosecution for crimes committed behind bars and was paroled. On November 3, 1977, he was arrested in Rosemead with a San Gabriel gang member named Angel “Stump” Valencia, his partner in crime for the murder of Mario Casas. He was convicted and returned to state prison. After successfully navigating through the California penal system, prison gang politics originating from Folsom, also known as El Canton de Dracula (The House of Dracula), would seal Nico’s doom. Additional charges to complete the deal included an eyewitness report accusing him of reading the Bible on a daily basis, considered by his detractors a grievous demonstration of weakness. Some even said Nico was no longer interested in carrying out anymore acts of violence. The case was packaged and submitted to his judge, jury, and executioners. As is usually the normal procedure when someone is convicted and condemned to die by La EME, the proceedings took place “in absentia.” If the hard working Nico had any illusions about a Mexican Mafia sponsored retirement plan or 401K investment fund for his years of labor, they were quickly dispelled as he relieved himself in his cell’s toilet on that fateful day. Nico’s killer was given the nickname “The Professional” because he reportedly required one blow to kill his victim.