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At 23, gangster knows about life in jail, fear

By Ken Raymond Published: July 6, 2003
L'il Termite ambles out of the Pilot Center with an oddly fluid motion that seems to set his limbs moving in opposite directions from his hips.

He's a small guy (5-feet tall, 100 pounds, according to court records), but he's wiry, and as his pale eyes shift back and forth across the playground and parking lot, he looks like a point guard plotting to sneak a lob pass past the other team's defenders.

His hair's close-cropped. A wispy goatee feathers across his chin and upper lip, making him seem even younger than his 23 years.

Gang sets

Hispanic gangs with significant Oklahoma City memberships:
Grande Barrio Central, also called GBC
Juaritos, also called Grande Barrio Locos
Southside Locos
Mexican Pride Gangster, also called MPG
Latin Town Brim
SOURCE: Oklahoma City police

Even so, the three others -- real kids, these, none older than 17 -- defer to him when he draws near.

"This is Termite here," one says by way of introduction. "He been with us probably as long as anyone."

The "us" is the Juaritos, also known as Grande Barrio Locos, a gang that has its roots in Juarez, Mexico, but which migrated to the United States along the same tracks taken by the country's burgeoning Hispanic population.

"When it first started, it was just 12, 10" homeboys, said member Manny Juarez, 16, also known as Pelon.

"Now we ... deep in Oklahoma City. Grande Barrio Loco just mean like big, bad crazy 'hood or something like that. It's hard to explain in English."

At least four other Hispanic gangs have taken root in Oklahoma City.

Two -- the Southside Locos and Grande Barrio Central, commonly known as GBC -- have memberships as large or larger than the Juaritos, which boast anywhere from 100 to 300 members.

Between them, police said, these gangs are believed responsible for at least five killings in the past month.

None have been solved, but the gang unit has its suspicions.

"We don't know who it is, but one of the Juaritos used an assault rifle and killed a guy" in early June, police Sgt. Jay Szymanski said. "One of these guys is probably the shooter, but we just can't prove it."

L'il Termite, whose real name is known to police and The Oklahoman but who asked that it not be used, said he doesn't do violence anymore, at least not the kind that involves firearms.

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