Top cop’s declaration of war has Maniac Latin Disciples reeling
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org February 20, 2012 12:38AM
The intersection at the corner of Spaulding and Barry has a lot of street traffic. It also has a reputation as an area where gangs are known to congregate. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times by Al Podgorski
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:01AM
The intersection looks like countless others on the Northwest Side.
Lots of trees, well-kept frame homes, a plant-filled traffic circle.
But there’s also a street sign spray-painted with a blue pitchfork — the symbol of the Maniac Latin Disciples.
It’s Barry and Spaulding. “B.S.” for short. The gang members who call it their turf, however, have a new name for the neighborhood surrounding B.S.
“It’s like the Bermuda Triangle,” one high-ranking gang member told the Chicago Sun-Times. “As long as you fly around it, you’re OK. But the minute you drive in there, you get sucked in [by the police.]”
Barry and Spaulding is Ground Zero in the Chicago Police Department’s all-out war on the Maniac Latin Disciples.
In a rare interview, the ranking gang member made it clear Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s call to “obliterate” the gang was not just cop bravado.
The unwanted police attention has driven gang members off the street corners where they sell drugs and has kept rivals from claiming the turf, the Maniac Latin Disciples lieutenant said on the condition of anonymity.
He said the last time the gang saw anything close to this level of heat from the cops was in 1978 during Operation Pot-Roc — named for the gang’s turf at Potomac and Rockwell — when dozens of members were arrested on drug charges.
“But we’ve never been called out like this,” said the gang member. “They’re saying we’re a menace to society. It’s like the Al Capone days when they called him Public Enemy No. 1.”
The Maniac Latin Disciples were founded in Humboldt Park in the 1960s and have 300 to 500 members across Chicago, along with suburban factions, police say. Officers have made more than 1,800 arrests of the gang’s members since the police war was declared in June.
They also have recovered 24 guns and impounded more than 100 cars. And they’ve filled out hundreds of “contact cards,” the documents police complete after they stop or frisk gang members.
Maniac Latin Disciples members are now under gang orders to keep violence to a minimum because of the police crackdown, the ranking member said. Still, they’re continuing to arm themselves for self-defense, he said.
“Everybody’s toting a gun,” he said. “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six. You can’t disarm because you’re vulnerable.”
The Avondale Park shootings
Maniac Latin Disciples member Antonio Bucio is the one who brought on the heat, police say.
Bucio allegedly shot two young girls, ages 2 and 7, on June 8 in Avondale Park on the Northwest Side while he was gunning for rival Latin Kings. The 2-year-old was grazed in the head. The 7-year-old was shot in the back. Both survived.
The shootings provoked McCarthy to declare war on the entire gang — “group accountability,” as he calls it.
“We’re going to obliterate that gang,” he told police brass in a meeting in June. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist.”
An imprisoned leader of the Maniac Latin Disciples is furious at Bucio because the police attention is now undercutting the gang’s drug sales, sources say.
The leader ordered Bucio’s expulsion from the gang, sources say. Chillingly, he also ordered fellow gang members to approach Bucio in the Cook County Jail and cut off his facial tattoo: a “D” with horns representing the gang. Bucio has it tattooed next to his right eye.
“Rip the tattoo off of his face!” was the leader’s order.
Only the intervention of other Maniac Latin Disciples in the gang’s hierarchy prevented the gruesome command from being carried out, sources say.
“The kid did what he did, but he’s just a soldier,” according to the Maniac Latin Disciples member who spoke to the Sun-Times. “He [Bucio] brought so much heat to the family, I would cast him out, too — but not so violently.”
The city sticker flap
The gang was in the headlines earlier this month when City Clerk Susana Mendoza axed the design for the city’s 2012-13 vehicle sticker because symbols on the sticker might be “misconstrued” as honoring the Maniac Latin Disciples.
The design by a 15-year-old student artist was selected in an online contest. The stickers were just days away from being printed when the allegations of the hidden gang signs arose. The teen’s mother denied he was in a gang or that he put gang symbols in the entry.
Law-enforcement databases list the teen as a suspected Maniac Latin Disciples member who denied an affiliation with the gang, sources say.
The sticker flap heaped even more unwanted attention on the gang.
The city’s heightened attention is evident in the number of contact cards officers have completed for Maniac Latin Disciples.
Between June 9 and Jan. 29, officers filled out 1,175 contact cards for the gang, officials said. The information is stored for a year, according to the department.
The gang’s faction near Barry and Spaulding is really feeling the pressure. That’s because “B.S.” is close to Avondale Park, the Latin Kings’ territory where the two girls were shot.
The pressure is keeping Maniac Latin Disciples off their corners — as well as their rivals like the Latin Kings and Spanish Cobras who don’t want to get stopped by the police, either.
Some Maniac Latin Disciples in the hottest areas are traveling to the gang’s other strongholds where they’re given a time slot to sell their drugs.
“You’re more than welcome to go to another set and make money,” the ranking gang member said.
“If you have to take care of something now, you call on your cell phone, get to where you need to go, take care of business and go back home. These shorties [younger members] aren’t used to being cooped up. Now you have dozens of cars constantly driving around and the police are pulling them over.”
He said he knows seven associates whose cars have been impounded.
“Most of the shorties don’t have licenses or insurance,” the ranking member said. “They’re easy to pick off.”
He said a lot of them aren’t reclaiming their seized cars because they don’t have the money. Some of the seized cars contained hidden guns the police didn’t find, he added.
Asked if he thinks the police will let up, the gang member acknowledged, “Stopping the violence is the only way. They know we’ll always be selling drugs. The cops will tell you, ‘I won’t trip out about you having weed in your pocket to feed your kids.’ But when you start shooting across schoolyards and shooting little innocent kids and s--- like that, they’re not going to tolerate that. I get mad. I’ve told the mother-f------ shorties in our mob to stop doing that f------ b-------. How do you think the parents feel? That’s our neighborhood.”
With more and more of the gang’s members going to jail, the Cook County Sheriff’s criminal intelligence unit has been speaking to jailhouse sources to develop new information on the gang’s hierarchy and its dealings.
The Chicago Police Department is using that information to build new criminal cases against the gang, sources said.
Another gang under the spotlight
The Maniac Latin Disciples isn’t the only gang with a bulls-eye on its back.
Members of the Spanish Cobras and YLOCs were implicated in the murder of off-duty Chicago Police Officer Clifton Lewis, who was shot to death during a robbery on Dec. 29 while moonlighting in a security job at a West Side corner store.
After murder charges were announced against Tyrone Clay and Edgardo Colon, the police superintendent threw down the gauntlet against the Spanish Cobras, too.
“This case revolves around Spanish Cobras,” McCarthy told reporters on Jan. 7. “And I can assure that group accountability is going to be pursued vigorously and there will be fall-out. We’re going to take care of business with that.”
The ranking Maniac Latin Disciples member said he knows that rival Spanish Cobras are getting hit hard. He’s hearing from his guys that the Cook County Jail is seeing an influx of them.
“Cobras are hot right now because of the cop [Lewis],” he said. “I grew up near the Cobras. I know they’re getting popped off.”
Surprisingly, the gang member said he didn’t know police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s name — even though the superintendent is the source of the Maniac Latin Disciples’ recent troubles.
But he does know McCarthy’s face from the TV news as the “top dog who gives the orders to the foot soldiers.”
“All I know is that people are hiding under rocks because of him,” the gang member said.
McCarthy’s commanders responded that their strategy is working.
Leo Schmitz, former head of gang enforcement and current Englewood District commander, said, “They’re afraid of us. They’re afraid to shoot. I’d call it a winning situation. We’re going to stick around until the superintendent says back off.”
Shootings are down
Police say the Shakespeare police district, just south of where the girls were shot, has seen a dramatic decrease in shootings. Between Jan. 9 and Feb. 5, for example, there weren’t any shootings in the district, compared to seven for the same period of 2011, police said.
Calls for police service also have dropped dramatically in areas where the gang is concentrated, officials noted. The gang has strongholds in three police beats in the Shakespeare District.
Beat 1423 saw calls for police service drop from 127 for the last six months of 2010 to 56 for the last six months of 2011. The other two beats — 1411 and 1412 — have seen calls for service drop as well, the department said.
The Logan Square neighborhood includes parts of all three police beats.
Larry Ligas of Logan Square Concerned Citizens, a frequent department critic, acknowledged the neighborhood has grown safer since the department put the hammer down on the Maniac Latin Disciples.
Ligas said there’s “very little corner activity” involving the gang, although he said he’s still concerned about armed gang “shorties” riding around on bicycles.
“The MLDs have been a problem for too long,” Ligas said. “I commend the mayor, I commend the superintendent. But I hope it’s not all ‘p.r.’ fluff and they move on.”