Faith saves local man from thug life in gangs – Mountain View Journal

At first look, Daniel Muñoz, 37, seems quite average — he’s the manager of the Subway sandwich shop in Edgewood and is a proud husband and father.

Beneath that veneer is a past involving gang activity and drugs that sent him to prison and eventually to redemption.

“A lot of these gang members, at a very young age, they do come from wrecked homes,” Muñoz said. “They come from homes where there is no attention given to them or if it is it’s negative attention.

“They’re looking for purpose. They’re looking for meaning in life; and they’re going to find it. Whether for the good or for the bad. It’s gonna happen and even though they do come from bad homes, that wasn’t my situation.”

Muñoz’ parents divorced when he was 5 and that’s when his mother took him to Albuquerque from Edgewood.

“I was a young man looking for meaning in life, you know? I’ll just be straight-up right now. I had two drug problems starting at a very young age,” Muñoz said. “The first drug problem, I’m thankful for. Very thankful.”

The first “drug problem” was a reference to religious faith he said was instilled into him by his mother who “used to drag me to church every weekend” and “did her best to give us a pattern to follow for life.”

But that was not the path Muñoz initially chose. He instead got involved with the drug scene when he was about 12, Muñoz said.

“I had some trauma in my young childhood as well and I was looking for healing. I was looking for purpose. I was looking for something to cover that pain,” Muñoz said.

To escape that anguish, he began smoking marijuana.

“If you don’t think the gang problem out here is real. My gang life started here. When I moved out here in the eighth grade, gangs were pretty prevalent,” Muñoz said. “It was here in Moriarty High School where I started my tenure as a Los Carnales Loco gang member.”

He would find out the hard way that this street gang had ties to a much larger prison gang.

By age 14, Muñoz was addicted to methamphetamine.

By the age of 16, he was manufacturing the drug.

“I used to flood this community with what I called the Devil’s Curse,” Muñoz said. “It led me down a path of crime.”

Muñoz did graduate high school and studied nursing at a university. Up until a few years ago, Muñoz was in and out of county jails on various counts including receiving and transferring stolen vehicles.

There is a pecking order of the people who commit crimes for the gang who also most likely do it for their drugs too, Muñoz said.

“It’s real and it’s people taking advantage of people especially in the drug scene. There’s no love. There’s no respect. There’s absolutely zero tolerance for law enforcement in that scene,” Muñoz said.

When he was booked in to Metropolitan Detention Center in 2003, he was placed in a pod in “supermax” with Los Carnales and Syndicatos de Nuevo Mexico. Los Carnales was the prison gang version of Los Carnales Locos, to which Muñoz belonged.

“These are two of the most lethal gangs you will ever come across,” Muñoz said. “I’ve seen them kill each other. I’ve seen them kill their enemies. They are no good at all. Well most of them are; you’ve got a lot of success stories.”

Muñoz was introduced to his fellow LC gang members at MDC and they pointed to a man and told Muñoz that he had to kill the man.

“I had to prove my worth. I had to prove that I wasn’t a coward so I took his blood,” Muñoz said. “It would follow me for the rest of my criminal life.”

After this, he tried to escape and was placed in segregation Supermax where he was facing about 93 years in prison for multiple felony counts.

“I was sitting in a cold jail cell and it dawned on me: that this was either gonna be my life or it’s not. I had to make a decision at that point or I was going to continue in drug life, whether I was going to continue in gang life,” Muñoz said.

Leaving the life could prove fatal.

“I had to come to the point where I would be OK with that because it was not worth it any longer,” he said.

He said a prayer that night in segregation “supermax” that would change his life for the better.

“The seeds that (my mother) planted in my heart began to sprout because I had a heart that was willing to listen,” he said.

He decided to get clean and has remained sober for almost 13 years with the help of the late Chaplain Greg Griego who entered him into his religious group God’s Pod. Griego also mentored Muñoz, he said.

On June 19, 2005, Muñoz declared that he was Christian and was then done with gang life “and, by the grace, of God, I’ve been sober since then.”

Eventually Muñoz got out for the first time and tried to find work. The only place that would hire him was Subway. In 18 months, he worked up from the bottom to being a general manager over five stores in Albuquerque. It was during this time he became a husband and a father to his children.

Unfortunately, the charges filed against him were still going through the legal system and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. If he had to go back in, Muñoz said he wanted to help the other gang members the way that Griego had helped him.

“So I had to go back into the prison system. I had a huge X on my head,” he said. “When you are in a gang, you are married to the prison gang. You make marriage vows to the prison gang and when you break those vows, it’s punishable by death.”

While in prison he became a part of the Restoration to Population Program, or RPP, to help reintegrate gang members into the general population. There were 27 people in the program when Muñoz was there from various gangs across the state who wanted out of their gangs. The program had nothing when Muñoz got there and he and others set up programs such as college programs, drug programs and the like. Muñoz was a substance abuse counselor there.

“We had everything that a man could hope for to come out of that lifestyle and be meaningful to society,” he said.

Since getting out of prison, Muñoz has gone back to Subway, this time in Edgewood. The restaurant was recently top-ranked for customer service in the state.

Muñoz told his story to the Edgewood Citizen’s Police Academy class on gangs and narcotics, both of which he said are in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley. Gangs that have found their way east of the Sandias include the Get Hard Crew and the War Hippies. Other gangs in New Mexico include Sureños 13, Syndicatos de Nuevo Mexico or SNM, Los Carnales, Juaritos Maravilla, MS 13, West Gate and the Banditos.

The class’ other subject was narcotics and their distinguishing characteristics.

Discussed were marijuana, spice, methamphetamine, krokodil, heroin, opioids, fentanyl and the casual use of over-the-counter medications to get high.

Krokodil, a synthetic form of heroin, is known by that name for the reptilian skin injuries that users show after continued use. The drug originated in about 2002 in Russia, according to the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science International.

At first look, Daniel Muñoz, 37, seems quite average — he’s the manager of the Subway sandwich shop in Edgewood and is a proud husband and father.

Beneath that veneer is a past involving gang activity and drugs that sent him to prison and eventually to redemption.

“A lot of these gang members, at a very young age, they do come from wrecked homes,” Muñoz said. “They come from homes where there is no attention given to them or if it is it’s negative attention.

“They’re looking for purpose. They’re looking for meaning in life; and they’re going to find it. Whether for the good or for the bad. It’s gonna happen and even though they do come from bad homes, that wasn’t my situation.”

Muñoz’ parents divorced when he was 5 and that’s when his mother took him to Albuquerque from Edgewood.

“I was a young man looking for meaning in life, you know? I’ll just be straight-up right now. I had two drug problems starting at a very young age,” Muñoz said. “The first drug problem, I’m thankful for. Very thankful.”

The first “drug problem” was a reference to religious faith he said was instilled into him by his mother who “used to drag me to church every weekend” and “did her best to give us a pattern to follow for life.”

But that was not the path Muñoz initially chose. He instead got involved with the drug scene when he was about 12, Muñoz said.

“I had some trauma in my young childhood as well and I was looking for healing. I was looking for purpose. I was looking for something to cover that pain,” Muñoz said.

To escape that anguish, he began smoking marijuana.

“If you don’t think the gang problem out here is real. My gang life started here. When I moved out here in the eighth grade, gangs were pretty prevalent,” Muñoz said. “It was here in Moriarty High School where I started my tenure as a Los Carnales Loco gang member.”

He would find out the hard way that this street gang had ties to a much larger prison gang.

By age 14, Muñoz was addicted to methamphetamine.

By the age of 16, he was manufacturing the drug.

“I used to flood this community with what I called the Devil’s Curse,” Muñoz said. “It led me down a path of crime.”

Muñoz did graduate high school and studied nursing at a university. Up until a few years ago, Muñoz was in and out of county jails on various counts including receiving and transferring stolen vehicles.

There is a pecking order of the people who commit crimes for the gang who also most likely do it for their drugs too, Muñoz said.

“It’s real and it’s people taking advantage of people especially in the drug scene. There’s no love. There’s no respect. There’s absolutely zero tolerance for law enforcement in that scene,” Muñoz said.

When he was booked in to Metropolitan Detention Center in 2003, he was placed in a pod in “supermax” with Los Carnales and Syndicatos de Nuevo Mexico. Los Carnales was the prison gang version of Los Carnales Locos, to which Muñoz belonged.

“These are two of the most lethal gangs you will ever come across,” Muñoz said. “I’ve seen them kill each other. I’ve seen them kill their enemies. They are no good at all. Well most of them are; you’ve got a lot of success stories.”

Muñoz was introduced to his fellow LC gang members at MDC and they pointed to a man and told Muñoz that he had to kill the man.

“I had to prove my worth. I had to prove that I wasn’t a coward so I took his blood,” Muñoz said. “It would follow me for the rest of my criminal life.”

After this, he tried to escape and was placed in segregation Supermax where he was facing about 93 years in prison for multiple felony counts.

“I was sitting in a cold jail cell and it dawned on me: that this was either gonna be my life or it’s not. I had to make a decision at that point or I was going to continue in drug life, whether I was going to continue in gang life,” Muñoz said.

Leaving the life could prove fatal.

“I had to come to the point where I would be OK with that because it was not worth it any longer,” he said.

He said a prayer that night in segregation “supermax” that would change his life for the better.

“The seeds that (my mother) planted in my heart began to sprout because I had a heart that was willing to listen,” he said.

He decided to get clean and has remained sober for almost 13 years with the help of the late Chaplain Greg Griego who entered him into his religious group God’s Pod. Griego also mentored Muñoz, he said.

On June 19, 2005, Muñoz declared that he was Christian and was then done with gang life “and, by the grace, of God, I’ve been sober since then.”

Eventually Muñoz got out for the first time and tried to find work. The only place that would hire him was Subway. In 18 months, he worked up from the bottom to being a general manager over five stores in Albuquerque. It was during this time he became a husband and a father to his children.

Unfortunately, the charges filed against him were still going through the legal system and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. If he had to go back in, Muñoz said he wanted to help the other gang members the way that Griego had helped him.

“So I had to go back into the prison system. I had a huge X on my head,” he said. “When you are in a gang, you are married to the prison gang. You make marriage vows to the prison gang and when you break those vows, it’s punishable by death.”

While in prison he became a part of the Restoration to Population Program, or RPP, to help reintegrate gang members into the general population. There were 27 people in the program when Muñoz was there from various gangs across the state who wanted out of their gangs. The program had nothing when Muñoz got there and he and others set up programs such as college programs, drug programs and the like. Muñoz was a substance abuse counselor there.

“We had everything that a man could hope for to come out of that lifestyle and be meaningful to society,” he said.

Since getting out of prison, Muñoz has gone back to Subway, this time in Edgewood. The restaurant was recently top-ranked for customer service in the state.

Muñoz told his story to the Edgewood Citizen’s Police Academy class on gangs and narcotics, both of which he said are in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley. Gangs that have found their way east of the Sandias include the Get Hard Crew and the War Hippies. Other gangs in New Mexico include Sureños 13, Syndicatos de Nuevo Mexico or SNM, Los Carnales, Juaritos Maravilla, MS 13, West Gate and the Banditos.

The class’ other subject was narcotics and their distinguishing characteristics.

Discussed were marijuana, spice, methamphetamine, krokodil, heroin, opioids, fentanyl and the casual use of over-the-counter medications to get high.

Krokodil, a synthetic form of heroin, is known by that name for the reptilian skin injuries that users show after continued use. The drug originated in about 2002 in Russia, according to the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science International.

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Faith saves local man from thug life in gangs – Mountain View Journal

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