Marked Man

Felix Medina and his gang compatriots ruthlessly ruled a south central neighborhood. Now the party's over.

Worse, in terrorizing the neighborhood, Gato invoked the name of the New Mexican Mafia, falsely claiming membership in the notorious and brutal prison gang he linked up with while behind bars. And he failed to kick any booty he extorted under the prison gang's banner back to the prison thugs. They are said to be unamused.

Department of Corrections officials who monitor prison gangs say Medina is likely to be a target of the New Mexican Mafia, known as the New Eme.

DOC spokeswoman Camilla Stongin says Medina's outlook is bleak.

A police shot of Medina as a teenager.
courtesy of Phoenix Police Department
A police shot of Medina as a teenager.
Eastside LCM veterano Joseph "Baby Joe" Munguia is back in the state prison, serving a five-year sentence.
courtesy of Phoenix Police Department
Eastside LCM veterano Joseph "Baby Joe" Munguia is back in the state prison, serving a five-year sentence.

"He's a dead man," she says.

Medina was a gangster from the start.

"I was born into LCM," he told police.

Most of the time, gang prospects are "jumped" into a gang, usually through a beating. But the progeny of a respected gang family or longtime residents are often accepted into the gang without initiation -- they're "born in."

Medina was raised by his mother and grandmother, and protected by a twin sister who gave him money for clothes and other necessities even as an adult. His mother's boyfriend provided little positive influence, selling drugs and landing in prison. He also has two younger siblings.

The Medina family lived on $2,200 a month -- which, in the Milpas neighborhood, is a pretty healthy income.

Felix Medina's mother, Mary, says there are no gangs in the neighborhood.

"Police harass you for no stupid reason just because you are walking to the store, or walking to the park," she says.

Mary Medina says police reports alleging crimes committed by her son are untrue. At the same time, she says she didn't know her son was shot in the stomach in August 1998 nor that he is the leader of Eastside LCM.

"I don't talk to Felix. I don't talk to nobody. I'm always at work," she says.

Court records show Felix Medina dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He ascended the rungs of a Latino street gang from a pre-teen "pee-wee" into teenage "chico" status.

Medina committed a series of "smash and grab" robberies that landed him in Adobe Mountain juvenile correction center, which enhanced his status in the gang.

By the time he was 16, he was helping a neighborhood adult steal cars and routinely beating up older LCM gang members who tried to intimidate him.

"I would get crazy and fuck them up," Medina told police.

By 1991, Medina was involved in an auto theft ring led by Pedro Ortiz, who would bring his 14-year-old son along for the action. The trio specialized in stealing late-model pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles. They got busted after selling a 1987 Suburban to undercover officers for $240.

Medina got $20 for each car he stole.

Medina was arrested in January 1992 and charged with seven counts of auto theft and trafficking in stolen property. He told his probation officer that he expected to be sent back to Adobe Mountain for the crimes, since he was still a juvenile.

But prosecutors had his case transferred to adult court. Medina pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted theft and was sentenced in May 1992 to four years of intensive probation -- although he gave the court indications he would rather serve prison time.

"It does not appear the defendant is overly motivated to complete probation at this time," wrote probation officer Laura Lanich in her presentence report. "He seems more concerned with completing his sentence as soon as possible, regardless of what it is."

It didn't take long for Medina to violate his probation. He failed to pay restitution, complete community service and obtain a full-time job. By October 1992, a warrant had been issued.

He was arrested in November, and by January 1993, Medina was in the DOC's Shock Incarceration Program. Records indicate Medina was dubious about the boot-camp-type program -- one drill instructor cited him for "not putting forth any effort during morning physical training."

Medina did use the 100-day program to improve his academic skills, which, despite his high IQ, were dismal. He raised his grade level in reading from 4.7 to 8.4, math from 5.5 to 7.1 and language from 1.7 to 4.7.

But the program failed to instill any desire in Medina to change his life.

Medina was sent to the state prison in Perryville, where he quickly violated prison rules. In March 1994, one of his girlfriends came for a visit and sneaked into the inmate's rest room. According to prison records, Medina "violated visitation rules when your visitor... exited the inmate rest room after you were observed doing so."

In August 1994, Medina was released from prison on work furlough, but went on the lam in December 1994, returning to his gang lifestyle.

When police caught up with Medina in May 1995, he resisted arrest and briefly eluded officers before he was subdued. During a melee, a girlfriend threw a few punches, hitting one officer in the face, police say.

Medina was sent back to prison for a second stint, where he continued to stir up trouble. In December 1995, he was cited after refusing an order to pick up trash with a reply of "Fuck you."

In prison, Medina had plenty of time to add to his tattoo collection that drapes his shoulders, arms, chest, stomach, back and legs. His life story of crime, prison, women and gangs is woven in a tapestry of black ink.

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