I had my neck done and people treat you so different, especially where I have moved to now. I look like a whole different person, like the people up here. The first response is always judgmental. Then you open your mouth and you speak and they are like, “Oh wow, this person is not such a bad guy.” My name is Kristopher Luis Gullen I am from Los Angeles, the northeast of LA, Highland Park. Highland Park has nice houses and stuff, but for a minute there it was really bad. Not so much now, it’s getting better. [Growing up] you had to choose a side. You either chose High- land Park or the Avenues gang. This for me was from ’93 til now. I just stopped the gangbanging about two months ago. It took me a long time to learn, but little by little I made steps. I did not get out of it when I should have. I missed a lot, I missed a lot of my kids’ lives, I missed a lot of my own youth.
Interviewer shows the pictures. Wow, what a difference! I don’t know if that would be possible. That would take a lot of laser [laughs]. Honestly though if I looked that way…well, you know what, to be honest, I have had some really good jobs in my life. I would hand in an application and if I got the interview, just speak with the person and I would get the job, you know? Once someone gets to know you, you don’t judge a book by its cover, hopefully. There are sometimes when they just see you and they won't give you the benefit of the doubt, like, “Oh, we are not hiring now,” or, “Sorry we cannot have that around here,” something like that. They don’t know where you are in life and what you are trying to do.
I was fortunate to have some good people in my life. I have made bad decisions, but growing up they taught me manners and respect. All that actually helps in a gang life, too.
I believe I was 13 [when I got my first tattoo], and that was on my right arm, actually on my elbow. “HPL,” that stands for Highland Park. We all started off as taggers. That is like elementary school and once you graduate it’s the gang. I used to look up to my homeboy Rascal, he was only like two or three years older but he was already deeper than I thought I could ever go, you know? They were not the best role models, but it was not really about role models, more like family. I said you had to choose a side, it wasn’t really like…of course, I wasn’t made by one person, but you were either going to find out the hard way or the right way, so you went with your friends. Those friends are doing life now. They don’t ever have the possibility of coming home.
I think I am probably one out of seven because we were not that big. I am probably the only one besides one other guy that is not doing life or is dead.
I have always known right from wrong, I can tell you that much. It’s not always so easy, easier said than done. Once my kids were born…before that if I got arrested and did life it did not really matter, or if I died. It is a sad thing to say, not like it did not matter, but it was not a fear in my heart. If it was going to happen, whatever happens, happens. I would roll with it.
Once I had my children it was like, “Dude.” Nobody wants to cheat you out of being with your kids. Once it happens you don’t say goodbye to that. Sometimes it is not the right time, you still don’t get the chance to make those choices.
I thought I knew it all. After my kids were born, that is when things really got serious. I got shot five times, point blank, after my two kids were born. I continued to still do the stuff I was doing and ended up in prison and all that, and then I got out and I got shot again, and I knew I had to stop this, but it was how, you know?
I saw my kids were getting older, and they were having difficulties in their lives. My oldest is 16 and I started seeing what he was going through. My son is a really good kid, not into gangs or anything, but he was having a really hard time. And when I helped him out of that, I saw the chance to be a father. I sent him up here to this location and I decided I was not going to use heroin no more, and I just got it together. Well, it’s not together yet, but it is getting better every day.
It feels great to be here [away from Highland Park]. I am here with my two boys. My daughter is still there, but I am trying to get her here. Then I will feel really comfortable. I see my future. I have a better chance out here. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.