Machine Gun Mundo Against the World
Machine Gun Mundo Against the World
By Eugene S. Robinson
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because bad guys are made, not born.
By Eugene S. Robinson
When we tell you that Machine Gun Mundo was a designated hitter, you might have gleaned from the nickname that it’s not the all-American pastime of baseball where he made his mark. Mundo was a hitman. A hitman who enjoyed his work. Until one day … he didn’t. And when he didn’t, he started helping law enforcement, hence the mask he wears while chatting with us today on The Carlos Watson Show. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.
When Good Goes Bad
Carlos Watson: So what were you like, Mundo, if I met you in high school, if you were 16, 17, and we had met, could we have had lunch together? Could we have hung out?
Machine Gun Mundo: See, that’s the crazy part about it. When I was in junior high school, I was a brain. I was among the smartest kids in school and I wasn’t in a gang; I mean, I wasn’t a gang member. I wasn’t a cholo, any of that. I went to junior high school and that was the last time …
I started doing time, like I said, in ’63, ’64. I graduated from junior high in ’64, very charismatic. I had good friends. Some of my best friends were multiethnic people. Because the smart people were Japanese, predominantly Japanese American, and so I was always competing with some of the brains. The Japanese. Brenda Thomas was African American. Her mom lived in the same housing projects as my family. Her mom was a policewoman. So I had a lot of friends because I was a brain. I wasn’t a bad person. And it wasn’t until I started going into the Youth Authority that I started looking to prove myself.
I became a demented person. I started involving myself in racial confrontations. Because in the Youth Authority, everything becomes polarized. You have the Blacks in their area, the Hispanics and another, Mexicans in another area. And then you have the whites. And so the toughest youths in the incarcerated world were African American and Mexican American. So we used to clash a lot.
It wasn’t so much out of race. There was no racial hatred. I don’t remember ever hating a Black person. It was more out of competition. Because our rival gang members were Mexican. So I wasn’t racist against my own kind. But we fought them. It was a power thing. You were flexing your muscles and trying to prove who is the toughest.
Watson: How did you get into gangs? Were a lot of your older siblings or your neighbors involved in gangs?
Mundo: No, I was born in a predominantly Mexican area, Mexican American area, where there were gangs in existence. But contrary to what people say, nobody forces you to join a gang. There’s an option. You can join or you can not join. In my case, I rebelled against the authority of my stepdad and I went to the street. I went to the street and I found my extended family there. I guess the companionship, the loyalty, whatever was missing, whatever element was missing at home. I took my act to the street and that’s where it all began. Started doing petty crimes. Before I knew it, I was a killer for my neighborhood. I got jumped into the neighborhood in an alley one day by the projects where I grew up. And I got jumped in, I killed a rival gang member within a year.
And that was my point of no return, when I committed that crime. I went on from there to be, I was state-raised, we like to call that. I was raised by the state of California in institutions. There was a … in a 19-year period, I guess, 17 years behind bars, which back then was a lot of time.
Watson: How old were you when you got jumped in?
Mundo: I was 19 at the time. I was a late bloomer because I had already done a lot of time as a Youth Authority ward in ’60. I started doing time around ’63, and then in ’69 is when I got jumped in. So you figure, I had already done about almost six years of Youth Authority time. So I was ready. I was willing and ready to join the street gang. So I was a late bloomer in that regard because most kids get jumped in around 13 or 14.
Watson: Explain to people what it means to be jumped in.
Mundo: In a Mexican, and I think, and I’m pretty sure in an African American neighborhood in Los Angeles, when you get jumped in, it’s an initiation that lasts X amount of time. In my case, I believe it was a minute. There was an OG, an older gang member who his responsibility was to take my valuables. He told me to give my watch, my wallet, anything I didn’t want to lose when I got jumped in. And he held them.
Then the guys jumped me. So what they do is they hit me, they pummel me with their fists and I’m supposed to fight back, of course. And I did. But you’re overwhelmed by the people who are hitting you, because they’re initiating you. It’s like a test of courage to see what you can withstand and to see that you’re going to fight back like a man; it’s a macho thing.
So, yeah, I fought back. I gave them about as much as I took, but at the end of the day, they’re supposed to whip me and they did. When the OG said the time was up, I still remember he came up to me and raised my hand in victory kind of like a boxer in the ring when they raise your hand. He raised my hand, I’m all beat up. And then he, the homies, all come up to me, they hug me, welcome me. So I was a made man and I was on cloud nine. That’s how you feel. It’s a euphoria, knowing that you are now becoming a made member of a street gang.
La Vida Loca
Watson: Mundo, how did you go from being a brain to being in juvie and being in the youth offenders thing? Was there something that happened? Was there a moment?
Mundo: It’s a great question, and you’d have to study and look at me transition into that monster to understand this, because it isn’t like one thing that happened. But the spark was my rebellion against my stepfather. He was abusive physically. And I want to tell you, I really want to emphasize that I hate using that as an excuse because people sometimes think that that’s what I use. I hate to play this victim thing. I looked at it like, we, as individuals, as human beings, are empowered to make decisions to go whatever way we want to go. And I really believe that we live in a country, we did back when I was a kid and we still do today, where we don’t have to be victims. We can be empowered to do what we want to do if that’s what we want to do.
So I screwed up is what I did. By rebelling against him and taking my act to the street, it was a process. … Nobody is born a criminal. So I don’t care who you are. You’re not born that way. You don’t have a predisposed gene.
In my family, there was no gang activity. There was nobody ever involved in gangs or anything like that. I had law enforcement family members. I had military people, people who served in the military, like most Americans. And I had the same values as anybody else. But that transition was so subtle from petty crime, from smoking marijuana and drinking, all of a sudden I’m taking pills. And before you know it, I experimented briefly with heroin. I didn’t like it. I think I’ve used five or six times in my entire life. … And then from all those little things, the next thing I knew, I was committing a murder.
Boundaries of No Return
Mundo: So I was on the streets of LA in 1969. I went to a teen center looking for a friend of mine from a rival gang. OK. But he was a family friend. So when I walked into the teen center, I’m surrounded by my adversaries from the rival gang. So I was jumped. I was beat up. Broken bottles, two by fours. All I could do was cover up as they swung and swung. And instead of being afraid, I remember thinking, what a f***ed way to die. Because I thought I was going to die.
I heard the voice of a female who, in my mind, I consider her an angel. And she was yelling at her homeboys and telling them, “Leave him alone. He knows David. He knows David, leave him alone.”
So little by little, there was an abatement of the attacks. And then some other guys walked up to me. They were still kind of drunk and they put out their hand, “Hey, sorry, homes,” this and that. I couldn’t shake anybody’s hand because I was too busy stemming the flow of blood. I could taste beer and blood in my mouth. So I went back to my neighborhood. And this was, I think a Saturday.
It was a weekend because the homeboys were partying and drinking. And when they saw me with blood running down my head, they asked me, “What happened? What’s going on?”
So I grabbed the machete. And the other guys grabbed different weapons. They all jumped in my car. Nothing had to be said, we jumped in my car, went back. I nearly severed the head of … Bobby Local. I remember just swinging. While everybody’s fighting with the rivals, I’m swinging at this guy, I catch him in the neck. He goes down and then I’m swinging, chopping on his neck, almost decapitated him.
Then we had a party that night. I wanted to do was be alone with my feelings and my thoughts. Because I had never killed anyone at this point. And I didn’t know how to feel. The next thing is this guy steers me to the back room, to a bedroom. And there’s a machine gun on the bed. And I looked at it and all I can remember, I tell people, I looked at it with unabated lust. Because I had never used a machine gun, but now there’s one in front of me.
Everybody’s talking about, “This is for when they retaliate, we’ll be ready for them.” I said, “Why wait? Let’s hit them first.” So that set the tone for the rest of my life as a gang member. You never wait for them to come to you. You take the fight to them. You initiate. The best defense is a good offense. So we went back. The crime scene tape was still up, but the police were gone.
I got out of the car, I opened fire. It was an uncontrollable weapon. I hit a guy in the buttocks. He survived. I tattooed the side of a house, not intending to. From that day forward, I never again wanted to use a machine gun because it was an uncontrollable weapon for somebody like me.
But nevertheless, I obtained the nickname Machine Gun Mundo. They already knew me as Mundo. Now I’m Machine Gun Mundo. Well to the gang members, in that world, that’s like a big deal. MG, for machine gun, they call me MG. But to me, it was like an embarrassment because it represented something that to me was a failure. I didn’t use the machine gun right. I didn’t kill anybody, see. Now I’m already thinking like a gang member. I want to kill because kill denotes productivity in the mindset of a gang member.