Rene Enriquez (mobster)
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July 7, 1962 |
Artesia, California, U.S.
|Known for||Former mobster|
Rene "Boxer" Enriquez (born July 7, 1962 in Artesia, California) is a former Mexican-American mobster. He was a high ranking influential member of the Mexican Mafia before becoming a federal witness in 2003. His life is chronicled in Chris Blatchford's true crime book The Black Hand: The Story of Rene "Boxer" Enriquez, and his life in the Mexican Mafia.
Enriquez grew up in a middle-class home in places like Thousand Oaks and Artesia in Southern California. He showed early promise in school. But instead of following his father into business, Enriquez channeled his ambitions into the local street gang.
In his teens, Enriquez was arrested after committing a string of armed robberies and was sentenced for a long period in prison. In 2015, Enriquez testified that he was dragged into a gang at the age of 12 or 13, when members of a Los Angeles street gang beat him behind a gas station as an initiation. He went to juvenile hall after he and two other partygoers raped an intoxicated woman.
At the age of nineteen, Enriquez first encountered the Mexican Mafia, or La eMe. While Enriquez was imprisoned at the Deuel Vocational Institution, he acted as a member of the Mexican Mafia and stabbed a gang member from Los Angeles, who survived the stabbing. Enriquez later stabbed to death a Vagos Motorcycle Club member nicknamed "Chainsaw."
In 1985, Enriquez became a full-fledged Carnal (Mexican vernacular Spanish for brother) in the mafia. He projected the Mexican Mafia into a status of unprecedented organizational structure with a base army of approximately 60,000 heavily armed gang members who controlled the prison system and a large part of California crime. He said, "I believe I'm a cut above the rest. As a mafioso, you have to be an elitist. You have an elitist, arrogant mentality. That's how you carry yourself in the Mexican mafia. That's how you project yourself."
In 1989, Enriquez was released on parole. Within weeks, he committed two murders. He ordered the killing of one woman, Cynthia Gavaldon, a drug dealer whom he suspected was stealing from him. He also killed a fellow Mexican Mafia member, David Gallegos, who had fallen out of favor with the gang. Enriquez gave a fatal overdose of heroin to Gallegos and shot him five times in the head to make sure he was dead. His criminal history also includes jailhouse attacks on other inmates, drug sales and a sexual assault.
In 1991, Enriquez and another man assaulted Mexican Mafia leader Salvador "Mon" Buenrostro at a lawyers' interview room in the Los Angeles County Jail. They stabbed him 26 times, but Buenrostro survived.
In 1993, the state sent him to Pelican Bay State Prison on California's remote north coast. Since he was a prison gang member, Enriquez was locked in a windowless isolation cell in the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. There inmates spend 24 hours a day alone without seeing the outside world, except on television. Years later, Enriquez described the SHU:
"What impacts me immediately as soon as I walk in, is the smell. I just stepped outside from the bus and you smell the pines, the redwoods, the forest ... these earthy, loamy smells. But as soon as you step into the SHU, it hits you like a wave. It's the smell of despair, depression, desperation. This is a place where people come to die."
In the mid-1990s, the Mexican Mafia put out calls to stop drive-by shootings among L.A. Latinos. But Enriquez says the aim was not peace.
"Our true motivation for stopping the drive-bys was to infiltrate the street gangs and place representatives in each gang, representatives which then, in turn, tax illicit activities in the areas," he said. Enriquez said the Mexican mafia wanted to channel the random shootings into a form of violence it could control, for profit.
"And we already had it planned out that California would be carved up ... into slices, with each member receiving an organizational turf," he said.
Defection from Mexican Mafia
In 2003, Enriquez left the Mexican Mafia. Since then, he has provided intelligence and other information to help law enforcement, acting as an expert witness in dozens of criminal trials and speaking at a number of conferences and training sessions. In 2014, officials with at least 11 federal and state law enforcement agencies wrote letters to the State Parole Board attesting to his contributions.
In February 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown blocked Enriquez's release, citing security reasons. "Because he is a high-profile drop out targeted by the Mexican Mafia, Mr. Enriquez's parole poses a serious security risk to him, his family, his parole agents, and the community in which he is placed," Brown wrote. Enriquez told the board that if released, he would enter the federal government’s witness protection program because he is on the Mexican Mafia’s hit list for his cooperation with law enforcement. He would not appear in the state’s public sex offender listing because of witness protection, he said, but would be under stringent monitoring by the U.S. Marshals Service.
“I cannot undo the past. But I can contribute to the future,” Enriquez told the parole board. “I can contribute to dissuading other individuals from participating in this.”
- NPR.org: Rene Enriquez radio story
- Chris Blatchford, The Black Hand: The Bloody Rise and Redemption of "Boxer" Enriquez, a Mexican Mob Killer, 2008.
- Police and Fire Publishing, Urban Street Terrorism, 2011.
- Police and Fire Publishing, The Mexican Mafia Encyclopedia, 2013.