LOS ANGELES: A&E Biography documentary on Drew Street and the Leon-Real family

Tonight at 10pm (9 pmCentral), A&E/Biography is showing a documentary on the Leon-Real family and the Drew Street gang, part of its (perhaps hyperbolically named) series on gangs: Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.

Anyway, I helped make this doc, interviewing with them etc. Check it out and let me know how I did. I don’t have cable….

Whatever the tone it takes, the story of Drew Street and the Leon-Real family, which I did for the LAT, was one of the most fascinating I’ve done in LA. I was totally engrossed. A saga of immigration and the underside of the American Dream. How the immigrant enclave can turn toxic.

Most of the folks on that street come from one small town in Mexico: Tlalchapa, Guerrero, which is in the Tierra Caliente, long one of that country’s most violent regions. They congregated on tiny Drew Street and the street became known back home as “El Barrio Bajo.” (The Low Neighborhood).

As one immigrant told me, “Anyone with aspirations left the street.” Most moved to Dalton, Georgia, America’s carpet capital. Those who remained turned Drew into a hive of drug and gang activity — one of the scariest in Los Angeles, with Maria Leon, a tiny woman who once sold popsicles and babysat for immigrant mothers, as the matriarch of 13 children.

Several gang sweeps and a federal prosecution have changed Drew Street.

I was just over on Drew Street and it looks better than it has in probably a couple decades at least. People can actually sell their houses there now, which wasn’t the case in 2008, at the height of the housing boom. The city seized the family’s house and tore it down, in a kind of municipal exorcism. It’s now a community garden. So that’s nice.


Filed under Culture, Gangs, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Prison

5 Responses to LOS ANGELES: A&E Biography documentary on Drew Street and the Leon-Real family


    Hello Mr.Quinones,
    I just started reading your blogs and being a former shot caller for the MM in the mid 90’s until I was ultimately indicted in 1999 on federal racketeering charges. I grew up in the Mc Arthur Park , area and by the time I was 12 was arrested for possession of heroin with the intent to sell and by the time I was 15
    was arrested for 5 attempted murders which led me being sentenced to the California Youth Authority until the age of 25. I had a childhood friend that many know as John Turscak who also got arrested at a young age but was tried as an adult and sent off to prison. He ultimately became a member of La Eme for doing a hit for Joe Morgan. I was released from Youth Authority years before John aka Stranger was let out of Pelican Bay. I Immediately went back to selling drugs in the downtown area and eventually ended up selling large quantities in the Northeast area where I became friends with the AGUIRRE family and those working under Alex Aguirre. Once Stranger was released I quickly rose up in rank as a soldier for La Eme and soon after that I was running the county jails on behalf of several Mafia leaders in Pelican Bay and those on the streets such as Mariano Chuy Martinez and Manuel Torrez just to name a few. But just as you reported in one of your blogs.. We started turning on each other and I was eventually put in the middle of a bitter feud between Stranger and Chuy. I was considered by the United States Attorney to be the glue that kept one faction of La Eme together during the turbulent summer of 1998 in which we were at an all out war amongst each other . Turns out Mr.TURSCAK was actually a government informant on the pay roll being paid thousands to inform on his fellow gangsters. Unfortunately for me, being that I was Turscak’s right hand man found myself in a world of confusion now that we had all been indicted for conspiracy to murder eachother and other violent acts including murder. I was put on hit list for siding with a government informant.
    I guess the message I am trying to send is that , as a kid growing up in a bad neighborhood infested with drugs and gangs I fell victim to my own circumstances and let the environment I was in take me under. I have many regrets but I also got a second chance at life away from gangs and drug dealing and to the people reading this that are still trying to be that solid gangster, just keep in mind that you are playing a game that you will never win. but if you consider winning by ending up in PELICAN BAY SHU, than I guess you won, until the harsh reality hits that,the same guys you are trying to be like will suck you dry for intel and use you to get out that same SHU PROGRAM you are trying to be in. Those still in the game will consider me as a dropout rat that couldn’t handle the big leagues, you may be right. I couldn’t handle the big league.

  2. Hey Sam,

    I thought this was one of the better shows when dealing with gangs in Los Angeles. Good job!


  3. Mark

    Thanks for the documentary. It is sad to see our freedoms here in the US being exploited by common criminals. Mexico exports their immigrants, and their criminals hand in hand. Most immigrants in the Southland are honest, hard working family people. It is a shame to see these criminal scum as de facto representatives of the community at large. This is coming from a white guy.

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