Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
The origins of Latino gangs are not well-documented in The Times, but the case of Earl D. Bush, 911 Diamond St., appears to be the first mention of the Diamond Street Gang, which is still active and was among those targeted by Officer Rafael Perez during what became the Rampart scandal.
Bush was arrested May 31, 1947, along with John Vergara, 14, of 1034 Colton St.; Gabriel Gutierrez, 19, of 228 N. Fremont St.; and Julian Delgado (published as Del Gado), 15, 1016½ W. 1st St., all in the Temple-Beaudry area near the junction of the Harbor and Hollywood freeways.
Martinez, 18, of 141 Bloom St., in the area between Main and the Los Angeles River north of Chinatown, was found shot to death behind an apartment building at 141 N. Flower, on a hill overlooking Figueroa.
Helen Schroder, a resident on Flower, told detectives she saw three youths on Flower exchanging shots with three youths behind a billboard on the Flower Street hillside. When one of the youths behind the billboard saw her, they fired at her, she said. Bush was arrested after a .22-caliber rifle was found in his possession.
While these members were Latino, another 1947 news story reports the death of a black youth, also living in the apartments at 911 Diamond St., who was a gang member. According to a 1950 lawsuit brought by the victim’s father, Eddie Hines was shot July 22, 1947, by a man guarding a warehouse 114 S. Beaudry. While the victim’s father said the 13-year-old was playing hide and seek, Clarence D. Dawson said Eddie threatened him after being confronted over the attempted burglary. Dawson and his employer, geophysicist Walter A. English, who kept scientific instruments in the building, said Eddie was a member of the Diamond Street Gang.
“Both defendants told the court that the area is plagued by the activities of the Diamond Street Gang, the First Street Gang and the Third Street Gang, which were in continual warfare against one another and kept the neighborhood in terror. Within a few weeks before Eddie’s death, the defendants declared, one of the gangs had killed another boy and an elderly woman,” The Times said.
There’s no record of what became of Bush, and whether he ever made it to Hawaii. His companions’ names are so common that it’s difficult to determine whether they are still alive.
But not all members of the Diamond Street Gang remained in criminal life. In a tribute to Betty Plasencia, who worked with at-risk youths in Temple-Beaudry before her death in 1981, Carlos Mancilla said: “She got me out of gang activities and into sports.” Frank Gamboa said: “One time a bunch of us painted graffiti all over the walls, and Betty got mad. “You’re gonna paint, she told us, and we painted. She knew how to talk to us.”