Santa Ana Showdown

After Oscar Gallegos shot two Long Beach cops, he swore hed never be takenalive. His run for the border ended with a trip to a Santa Ana strip mall.

Carlos never admitted guilt in the shooting and claimed he was framed by police because he was a prominent East Side Longo gang leader. According to Frankie, Carlos' arrest affected Oscar deeply. "It affected all of us; it was terrible," he says. "He was 18 and had a baby on the way. But it affected [Oscar] particularly, being in the same gang with him, on the streets and hanging out."

Tony claims he tried to convince Oscar to drop out of the gang, but he refused. "Whenever I heard he had been in a fistfight or was in another neighborhood when one of his buddies got shot, I would try to talk to him and say, 'Listen, that could have been you,'" he says. "But his relationship with his friends on the street was very tight. And a few years after Carlos went to prison, the same things started happening to Oscar. He was always getting picked up and harassed."

Frankie remembers one such occasion when Oscar was 15 years old. "He and a buddy were walking to our apartment and he felt something hit him on the back of his head," he says. "He fell face first and woke up at the police station and they were yelling at him. They asked his age and couldn't believe he was 15 because he had facial hair and everything. He told me he knew it was the police who had hit him from behind."

Oscar (l) with a neighbor, circa 2003, photo courtesy Gallegos Family
Oscar (l) with a neighbor, circa 2003, photo courtesy Gallegos Family

In 1990, police arrested Oscar for illegal possession of a firearm. He was convicted and went to county jail for several months. Four years later, he was arrested again, this time for selling crack. He did another stint in jail and was deported to Mexico. In 1997, after illegally entering the United States, police arrested Oscar yet again, this time for assault with a deadly weapon and making terrorist threats. The charges were later dropped. In 2001, cops busted him for public intoxication.

The following year, police arrested Oscar for a much more serious crime—raping a woman in Texas. But after he spent five days in jail, they determined that the real culprit was a person in Texas with the same name. Oscar sued for the false arrest, but a judge dismissed the case. The experience not only seemed to solidify Oscar's hatred of police but to justify his self-destructive refusal to take responsibility for his own problems. Tony tried to get him work at the hazardous waste disposal firm where he worked, but Oscar would always find an excuse not to show up. He frequently disappeared for days and would travel to Mexico for months at a time.

In the months before he shot officers Yap and Wade, Frankie and Tony claim, their brother seemed especially angry at police. He felt he couldn't leave his mother's apartment without being followed by cops. Lt. Dave Cannan, a Long Beach Police public information officer, said both Yap and Wade have told police investigators that neither had ever seen Gallegos before. "At no time did either officer Yap or Wade ever come into contact with him before that day," Cannan says. "One of them was still learning his way around a police car and the other was a good cop trying to work his beat when that person tried to take their lives."

*    *    *

When police play him the message, and Tony Gallegos hears his brother say he hopes the two cops he shot would "fucking die," he tries to explain what Oscar meant when he claimed he pulled the trigger to exact revenge for "what they did to Carlos and me." But the police seem convinced Oscar must have been high on drugs. "They kept playing that message over and over," he recalls. "One of them kept telling me, 'Your brother was doped up, right?' I said 'No, you heard the message,' but they wouldn't let me tell them what he meant by what he said."

Instead, police ask Tony to call Oscar and offer to bring him money. He refuses to help arrange a meeting that would lead to his brother being arrested. "I felt very weird with what they were asking me to do," he says. "Of course I was shocked at what he had done and wanted him to turn himself in, but I felt like I couldn't betray my brother that way."

At 9 a.m., police let Tony go. They have already sent squads of detectives and patrol officers to every location that Oscar has ever visited. But they don't catch up with Frankie Gallegos until later that evening, as he walks out of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center with his wife and young daughter, who has just acted in a performance of The Nutcracker.

Earlier in the day, Frankie had called one of the police detectives working his brother's case and told him he hadn't seen Oscar in two days, but that he had heard the description of the Pathfinder Oscar was driving and recognized it as his car, which he had recently given to his mom. He offered to drive down to the station to talk some more, but the cop told him he'd call him later.

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