The Mexican Mafia kills one of its own

The Mexican Mafia was founded in the late 1950s by inmates in the California state prison system. Latino gang members from Southern California banded together for protection against inmates of other races and Latino gangs from Northern California. Their ruthless tactics enabled them to take over the drug trade and other illicit business inside prisons, ordering attacks on inmates and prison staff who crossed them.

Over time, the Mexican Mafia leveraged this grip on the penal system into control over Latino street gangs in Southern California and the state’s Central Valley. The gangs must pay “taxes” — either a monthly flat fee or a percentage of their take from drug sales, robberies and other crimes. Those who refuse to pay are marked for assault or murder.

It is estimated by the authorities that there are only about 140 members of the Mexican Mafia. They are supported by a network of associates, inside and outside prison, who do their bidding, collecting taxes from gangs and drug dealers, relaying messages and carrying out beatings, stabbings and shootings.

Mexican Mafia member Donald Ortiz
Donald Ortiz, shown here in an undated photograph from the CDCR, was killed Nov. 19, 2021 in Chino, CA. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Damon Ramon Ortiz

Damon Ramon Ortiz was just 11 when he committed his first crime. He and two friends attacked a man with a belt and stole his tape deck. Aged 12 he was caught inhaling solvent fumes in a stolen car. He was also involved in a mugging, threatening a woman at knifepoint. By the time he was 13 he had joined a local gang called the Whittier Varrio Locos.

By the time he was 19, Ortiz was already a hardened criminal. He was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail in 1986. It was during this stint in jail that he got the opportunity to get inducted into the Mexican Mafia, when two senior members of the gang asked him to kill Danny “Kojak” Deavilla. They gave him a knife and a few hours later he returned it, informing them that the job had been done.

Years later it transpired that Ortiz had not been the one who wielded the knife to kill Deavilla, but that he had partnered with Tommy “Little Man” Moreno from the Echo Park gang, who was the one who had actually committed the hit.

“He got ‘made’ under false pretenses.”

The penalty for having misrepresented the facts was death.

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