Eddie Quiñonez, Street Scholar

The transition from Anaheim gang member to college graduate has been anything but easy

Eddie Quiñonez, Street Scholar
Photo: John Gilhooley | Design: Dustin Ames

The luckiest day of Eddie Quiñonez's life just happened to arrive on a Friday the 13th. It was just after midnight in mid-October 2006, and Quiñonez, a former member of the Anaheim-based gang Down Familia de Wicked Soldiers (DFWS), had spent the afternoon at a local high-school football game with some old friends.

The then-22-year-old Quiñonez hadn't been an active member of the gang for years. He'd grown out his hair from the close gangster shave he used to sport, wore clothes that covered his old tattoos, and was on his way to graduating from Fullerton College. But there's a saying about old gang members: They never really leave their barrio.

After the game ended, Quiñonez met up with some of his old homies from DWFS. Together, they headed to one of the places where he used to hang out: an alley near where Dogwood Avenue dead-ends at Interstate 5 in Anaheim. At some point, Quiñonez began arguing with one of his old friends. He tried to leave and had just sat down in the driver's seat of his truck when one of his ex-homies confronted him.

"Give me your fucking truck!" the guy demanded.

Quiñonez took the keys out of the ignition. He wasn't giving up the truck without a fight. The next few minutes were a blur. Punching wildly with clenched fists, Quiñonez landed several blows, breaking bones in his own hands. His attacker wielded a knife, and by the time Quiñonez managed to grasp the blade, he'd already been stabbed 27 times. Blood spilled from cuts to his chest, hands, face and neck.

"I knew I got stabbed, but I didn't realize how bad it was," he recalls. Pulling a cell phone from his pocket, he called a friend who lived close by, asking her to give him a ride to the hospital. Then he tried to drive himself to her house. "I started feeling dizzy," he says. "I almost went head-on with a car. I passed out and woke up with the airbag in my face."

Quiñonez had just crashed his truck into a telephone pole at a nearby park. "When I looked into the mirror after I crashed, that's when I saw all the blood gushing out of my neck and hands," he says. Quietly, feeling his life slipping away, he prayed the Hail Mary in Spanish: "Dios te salve, Maria, llena eres de gracia . . ."

Onlookers cautioned him to stay in the vehicle, but Quiñonez got out, sat on a curb and fainted again. Someone took off his shirt and, to staunch the flow of blood, wrapped it around Quiñonez's punctured neck. An ambulance arrived and whisked him to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange. He spent 17 hours in a coma and eight days in the hospital. An Anaheim police detective tried to interview Quiñonez about the stabbing, but he refused to cooperate with any investigation. The crime remains unsolved.

*     *     *

As Orange County's largest city, Anaheim faces some of its biggest problems, especially when it comes to its youngest residents. The city internationally known as the home of Disneyland, with its corporate brand of childhood innocence, had its image shattered in the summer of 2012. Controversial officer-involved shootings, allegations of police brutality, gangs and stark income inequality came to a riotous head in downtown Anaheim's streets on July 24, 2012.

The contradictions sparked self-reflection, but not much. A Disney-sponsored study by the Olin Group reported that Anaheim was failing its youth, particularly those between the ages of 13 and 18, by affording them few programs—or places—besides the streets to go to after school. Gangs lie in wait for those falling through the cracks. "The current number of truly active gangs in Anaheim is 25," Anaheim Police Department spokesman Lieutenant Tim Schmidt says. In the past decade, APD reported a total of 55 "gang-related" homicides and 20 officer-involved shootings that have slugged documented gang members.

It was this dangerous underbelly of Orange County, where young lives can be ended by endemic gang violence or destroyed by lengthy prison sentences, that welcomed Eddie Quiñonez in 1996, when he became a gang member at age 13. His run-ins with the law would pipeline him into the Orange County Probation system, where he was fortunate to be exposed to the so-called 8 percent program (a county-run intervention system focused on the 8 percent of youth defined as repeat offenders) and Los Pinos, a minimum-security conservation camp nestled in the Cleveland National Forest near Lake Elsinore. He credits the two with helping him to eventually turn his life around.

Unfortunately, the 8 percent program Quiñonez benefited from doesn't exist now as it did then. In 2010, specific funding ended for the program, and it was rolled into the OC Probation Department's Youth Reporting Center partnership, a move that shuttered the program's last two affiliated Youth Family Resource Centers. And citing the effects of the Great Recession and federal funding cuts, Los Pinos also shut down that year. The 156-bed facility came to an end after 39 years of operation. "The trends over the past decade make for grim prospects for at-risk youth" in Anaheim, observes Gina Peralta of W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity. "Their chances are slim."

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45 comments
donwtownbrown
donwtownbrown

"Anaheim was failing its youth"  NO, Anacrime's youth failed IT.

donwtownbrown
donwtownbrown

Stop civilian brutality.  And pay your medical bills when you get stabbed by your "homies".  I'm sure they were pretty high for 8 days in the hospital.  But I bet you skipped out and left the whites to pay for it.

cristinamichellearel
cristinamichellearel

Brilliant work Gabriel San Roman!!! I'm blown away by your commitment to bringing the truth to light. More at risk youth need to read your story. I am inspired to invite Eddie to our next Youth Conference, I am sure he will inspire many students.

As an Anaheim resident I was blown away by the outrages amount of active gangs and homicidess.

Eddie keep up the good fight, you will be a transformational counselor for teens one day. Si se puede! Let's continue to close the achievement gap!!

Rach Ware Rosas
Rach Ware Rosas

Inspirational, it just shows that it's never too late. I hope he achieves all of his dreams.

kklucas2
kklucas2

Thanks for sharing your story Eddie. It is these types of stories that make my job as a Community College Counselor worth GOLD!  Congratulations! I hope that you continue to motivate more young ones so that we can continue to increase the number of college degrees attained rather than increase the number of prisoners. Si Se Puede!!

Lisa Anderson
Lisa Anderson

Los Pinos is where my dad started his federal career and helped get that program started. Wow.

Elida Summers
Elida Summers

I hope he makes his dream come true working with teens. His life experiences can change the course of a young person born or living in an environment plagued by violence. I'm glad that he had somebody that believed in him and his potential. I hope that somebody out there with the financial means is able to give him the $$ he needs to finish his graduate studies. It takes a village...

Henry Ruiz
Henry Ruiz

There must be more. Education is the key to freedom.

mehiconoesbueno
mehiconoesbueno

wtf? I guess cal state fullerton is the Harvard for Mexicans... after all, most of those idiots don't even make it past 6th grade

timo3004
timo3004

Don't listen to these trolls talking shit they probably grew up with a goldon spoon !!!

timo3004
timo3004

Very impressed Eddie !!!

terryevd
terryevd

Quinonez was an idiot for not turning in the other gang-banger. Just proves he still has his affiliations. I wonder how many innocent victims the perp has robbed, maimed or worse yet killed since Quinonez helped get him off. Stupid is as stupid does.  

sweetliberty1776177
sweetliberty1776177

Ok , so this Hampton cop is a bad one 


we all agree get him off the force


all good cops want bad cops off the force



so then dont all good families/people want bad families/people out of their area/ force???


if yes, then those "lengthly" sentences are not so lengthly


if no, 


then why keep demanding we pay for their bad habits via welfare

obamacare wic


etc



AND FORGET CALLING ME GOP


NO WAY


sweetliberty1776177
sweetliberty1776177

We applaud people who turn their lives around like this young man did



BUT TO USE THIS AS yet ANOTHER reason to leave unarmed people vulnerable to more attacks so


you can earn/have/enhance street cred or ladder climbing on the  mslsd food chain is a disservice to good people everywhere



DisneyLand is a reality


It really exists as much as the gang violence 


gangs occur b/c the Dems KNOW THAT THEY NEED TO STAY IN POWER VIA AN ANGRY BASE OF PEOPLE



IF "these people" ever figure the Dems out


OUCH!!!!!!!

sweetliberty1776177
sweetliberty1776177

"or destroyed by lengthly prison sentences"


TALK ABOUT OUT OF CONTEXT


you mean a guy puffn a joint gets 5 years?


yeah, thats wrong




how about a violent criminal getting 15 years?


too" lengthly" for you??



ITS easy to be a lover when its not your neighborhood or household that has to re-receive a criminal


b/c some "lover" wants to give them another chance


( which of course bleeds right into this story,,,yeah, I get it

sweetliberty1776177
sweetliberty1776177

"THE GOVERNMENT IS FAILING "ITS" YOUTH"


first problem , among many firsts


YOU DISRESPECT by not allowing the PARENTS TO TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY 


but instead curl up in the literary fetal position and proclaim, 

its societies fault



IF YOU ARE YOUR BROTHERS KEEPER


THEN YOU MUST SHOW THEM RESPECT


and that starts with


they have the power to be responsible 


and they must be responsible to have the power

DavidZenger
DavidZenger

I always wondered why Eddie got such a small settlement. Now I know. And I know Garo Mardirossian could have afforded to give him the whole 25 Gs.

vbmbtb
vbmbtb

Eddie

Great job of earning your education. Use your life experiences to share and motivate the many other gangsters to change their life around.

Coach Schmidt

You were one of the coolest coaches I ever had!

Victor Barrios

prince_sargah
prince_sargah

I remember Eddie from when we went to cal state Fullerton together. He was a really smart and intelligent guy, who had all the girls liking him because of his sophisticated ways in how he talked to them. If I could admire anybody it would be this young man. I'm glad to hear that he's still doing good and he has a bright future ahead of him:).

meheecan-cris-doner
meheecan-cris-doner

pastor eddie is a nice guy. he feeds the homeless on a daily basis, and is that type of person that would give you his last dollar. this guy is going to heaven.

twoodruff1966
twoodruff1966

Los Pinos Probation Camp turned around this kid, and hundreds of others over the decades it was in operation. Sadly it was closed due to ugly internal politics. These kids, and the system, were left with few options to turn around desperate lives. I wonder how many kids, now adults, are in prison as a result of the closure of Los Pinos five years ago. 

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

From the last time I checked CSUF is a fully accredited university, that has an elite program they offer in majors, which makes it difficult to get accepted there. Just because its no Ivy League school, doesn't make it no less of a university. And there's a diverse abundance if people who attend here, not just Mexicans; thus it's no consolation prize to be here, it's a privalage!

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

@terryevd, that was over 7 yrs ago. Oh well it is what it is. I can't go back and undo things. I just harbored that code of silence persona of not wanting to succumb to doing that, at that given time. Now I'm at a more wiser way of thinking. Thus get to know me before u call me an idiot.

twoodruff1966
twoodruff1966

@terryevd  Sometimes it takes while to grow up, and the incident you're referring to occurred 8 years ago. Sounds like you don't know what it is like to live in "one of those neighborhoods," right? And you must of done everything right at age 22, right? As a former Los Pinos staff that worked with this kid and saw the good in him, I was very pleased to read this article. 

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

I think that my turning my life around here is the thesis of the story, not now much I got in my lawsuit. I did get a decent amount after the attorney fees. Keep in mind that nobody works for free, so I'm not complaining about Mr. Mardirossian's work he did for me. Glad that I got to tell the public here about my transformation, and the different obstacles I had to overcome to do so.

jeff.lenney
jeff.lenney

@eddie.m.quinonez Awesome story man - great to see you making moves in the right direction!  Thanks for sharing your story with us!

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

Mr. Victor Barrios, how have you been my friend? It's been a while since we last saw each other over a Gilbert South. Take care there and I hope to see you around soon:-).

kbear09090
kbear09090

@eddie.m.quinonez Are you saying if it happened today you would co-operate with the police and turn in your ex associates?

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

@twoodruff1966, thank you my friend for clearing that up with this guy who didn't understand what it was like, to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. You knew that life better than anybody, because u worked with us wards up there. Email me at e_m_quinonez@yahoo.com, I would like to know which staff member you were, I hope to hear from u soon :-).

terryevd
terryevd

@eddie.m.quinonez Don't you feel any guilt over your attacker's other victims since you would not co-operate? That's nothing more than a macho attitude. I get the impression you still don't know the difference between right and wrong.

roman_archer
roman_archer

Thank you for sharing your amazing story Eddie. You are a true inspiration! And major props to Gabriel San Roman for a brilliant article. After reading it I had that same overall feeling I get after watching a great movie. Which leads me to think, wouldn't the Eddie Quinonez story make a sensational movie?

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

@terryevd is talking shit for me not turning in the fool, then there's @kbear09090 talking shit if I were insinuating that if I would now hypothetically turn a person in, if they did that to me now. Basically I'm damned both ways. Well I could accept criticism from @terryevd, because I could see his point. But @kbear09090 needs to take his shit talking off this page, and grow the fuck up. Thus I never said if I would now, I'm spitting out knowledge something you know nothing about, you fucking in basal. @meheecan-cris-doner, thank you for putting this idiot in his place :-)'

eddie.m.quinonez
eddie.m.quinonez

@terryevd u need to understand that this happened over 7 years ago. So read the article thoroughly and scrutinize it in that small brain of yours. I think a person with a learning disability wound understand more than u, about the time length of the events in this article.

meheecan-cris-doner
meheecan-cris-doner

terryved aka pendejo... granted that person that harmed Eddie would probably engage in that behavior after the incident with Eddie. but there is one problem, pendejo. instead of basing you're premise on a probability your statement's foundation is solely based on certainty. in other words, your logic is invalid, pendejo. so be careful in using the word ”idiot” so loosely. by the way, it would not surprise me if you did not understand the logic i explained, pendejo. ha!

 
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