By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Three months ago, Eddie Quiñones actually wanted to be in jail.
On July 14, Anaheim police arrested his father, Carlos Quiñones Sr., on weapons charges. The next day, accompanied by his family, Eddie returned to his father's house to retrieve his belongings and move into his mother's house.
Eddie took a break from packing to walk down the street for soft drinks. While he was gone, 15 Anaheim police officers raided the house.
"My daughter called my mother to the living room, saying that the cops were there," Eddie's mother, Cindy Quiñones, says. "They had the whole place surrounded and came barging in with guns, telling my mom to put her hands up."
Eddie says he saw several police officers standing over his 22-year-old brother, Carlos Jr., who was lying on the ground, bleeding from his face. According to Eddie, his brother said, "They threw me on the floor."
"That's when [the police] took my sister's photograph without her permission, and then mine and my brother's," Eddie says. Both Carlos Jr. and their sister Carleen were handcuffed.
"They said nobody was under arrest and they were just doing a parole check," Cindy Quiñones says. "But there was nobody there on parole because my husband was already in jail."
Eddie is no angel. He admits he was once an active member of the Down Familia de Wicked Soldiers, an Anaheim street gang—indeed, the letters "DFWS" are tattooed on four fingers of his right hand. "I'm from there; I can't deny it," he says. "But I ain't active or nothing." He admits to at least eight arrests for everything from grand theft auto to "street terrorism" and acknowledges that "Capone" is his gang moniker.
Police cited Eddie for carrying a small pocketknife—a violation of the terms of his gang probation. They evicted Eddie from the house and told him to show up in juvenile court for a hearing on the knife charge.
And then, according to a complaint filed by his mother and other witnesses, police left Eddie with a warning: "We are going to bring you down!"
With that, the 17-year-old Quiñones says he decided to surrender. "I was afraid of the police," he said in a recent interview with the Weekly.
One week before his scheduled hearing on the knife charge, he arrived in juvenile court with an unusual request: he begged the judge to send him to juvenile hall—or a youth camp—for six months.
A judge acceded to the odd request and gave Quiñones six months for the probation violation. On July 19, Quiñones entered the Santa Ana juvenile-detention center.
He reasonably figured his problems were over. He was wrong.
On July 27, his mother and other Anaheim activists met with Anaheim police officials to complain about the police raid. That same day, an Anaheim detective met with Quiñones in the juvenile-detention center to interrogate him about a recent auto theft. Quiñones, it turned out, was the officer's prime suspect. There was just one problem: Quiñones entered juvenile hall on July 19, two days before the car theft took place.
No charges were filed against Quiñones in the case, but his problems were far from over. On Aug. 5, he turned 18. A week later, he was transferred to the Santa Ana jail. For the past three weeks, the jail has been under lockdown, thanks to a race riot that broke out while Quiñones was outside his cell. Along with about 30 other inmates, Quiñones says, he tried to stand with his hands on the wall to show he wasn't participating in the melee, but to no avail.
"They pepper-sprayed me and everyone else," he recalled in an Oct. 4 interview conducted at the jail. Like the rest of the inmates, Quiñones now must remain locked inside his two-person cell for all but one hour per day.
Interviewing Quiñones for this story wasn't easy. At first, Santa Ana officials refused to confirm or deny he was at the city jail unless provided with a booking number. On a second attempt, the reporter was allowed upstairs to wait for several minutes in the visiting chamber before being summoned back to the lobby via the jail's loudspeaker. According to one of the officers, the delay had been caused by the fact that Quiñones had been showering and now refused to be interviewed. This information was forwarded to his family, who visited the jail that evening.
"That night, my mom and my sister came and asked me why I rejected the interview, but I accept all my visits. . . . Nobody came and asked me if I wanted to be interviewed," Eddie recalled later.
On the Weekly's third attempt to interview Eddie, the reporter was turned away once again—this time because, the officer explained, Tuesday was a visiting day "only for non-Latino inmates." This unheard-of rule was apparently introduced as a punitive measure after the jailhouse riot, and sure enough, the reporter was finally able to see Quiñones the following day.
With just one month remaining before a Nov. 7 progress review hearing that will determine whether he can go home early or will have to serve out the remainder of his sentence in jail, Quiñones says he's determined to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. "When I get out, I want to get my high school diploma," he says. Quiñones has already made arrangements to get his gang tattoos removed and says he's thinking of enlisting in the military. Whatever happens, Quiñones says he's had his fill of run-ins with law enforcement and never wants to end up in jail again.
"I just want to stay away from the police," he says.