A Different, Insider Perspective on the Recent Fullerton Gang Attack on a Church

There has been much recent media coverage about a recent attack by Fullerton's longstanding Tokers Town gang against the Rev. Willie Holmes and his storefront Majesty Christian Fellowship church in their hood. Marches, arrests, and much other hullaballoo. Having a much different perspective on the attacks, however, is Sandy Stiassni, who is involved with the OC Green Party and a local LULAC chapter, amongst others. He sent out a long email with his perspective on the attacks which he has generously allowed us to reprint in its entirety. It's long, but well worth the read:

How Not To Kill a Mockingbird in Fullerton: Black Against Brown in the Richman 'Hood
By Sandy Stiassni

Orange Countians were shocked, dismayed and puzzled by a recent tragic assault upon the person and property of Fullerton storefront preacher and longtime spiritual leader Willie Holmes, in this dignified, community-oriented North Orange County city.

As attached LA Times article details, late in the evening of Friday February 13, a group teenage boys broke Majesty Christian Fellowship's doors and windows, smashed Holmes' car, and pelted him, his two sons and a friend with rocks.  Terrified onlookers, including Holmes' wife, helplessly watched this violent rampage, said to be perpetrated by Fullerton Tokers Town, a local Latino gang.  

Over the weekend, Fullerton Police arrested three 16 and 17 year-old Fullerton boys on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, felony vandalism and gang activity.  Others thought to have participated in this terror attack remain unidentified and at large.

So much for the facts.  With no disrespect to Times reporters Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Bob Pool, or veteran Fullerton-beat Register newspaperwoman Barbara Giasone, everyone's a journalist these days.  With eyes, ears, intuition, cell phone and computer keyboard, we Everyone Journalists report our version of the news; we dig for seemingly unimportant, yet convicting details, sometimes conveniently overlooked or ignored by our professional colleagues in mainstream printed media.

First a brief resume: for the past 18 years, I've managed an apartment complex in Fullerton's West-of-Harbor-South-of-Commonwealth 'Hood.  I once worked in journalism; as Feature Editor of my college weekly newspaper, my highest accolade was honorable mention by a Collegiate Newspaper Guild for a food review I did on the infamous Squat and Gobble Restaurant in Rome, New York.

These days, I'm more skilled at cajoling rent out of my mostly happy residents with my right hand, cleaning out clogged toilets with my left.  One thing I've learnt is that all problems--water leaks, pesky bureaucrats, deadbeat tenants--have a cause; by learning the root of a problem, one may frequently prevent it from happening again.

In newspapers, media, official City reports, informal discussion with victims, one piece of this troubling gang assault sadly missing was the "Why". What caused such a violent outrage, on what was an otherwise normal, humdrum night on Fullerton FTT's turf?

To answer this question, I went directly to the source; my homies in the 'Hood.

We've a chequered past, FTT and I; as all four graffitied perimeters of my property bear stark witness, I know the pain of wanton vandalism.  I, too, know how it feels to be violated and terrified.   In the famous "Dominoes Pizza" episode, I almost lost my building and livelihood.

Back in the early 1990s, FTT gained notoriety when they placed pizza orders, lured unsuspecting deliverymen to a location, collected their loot, then threateningly sent drivers away with no payment.  Rather than simply red-line this neighborhood as a No Delivery Zone, Dominoes operators worked closely with Fullerton PD to plan an undercover Sting-On-A-Sting.

One day, a call came into Gang Enforcement Detectives; "We've a pizza order at Highland and Valencia. Request Operation Undercover Dominoes, NOW!"

Eager to prosecute these juvenile pizza criminals, and also to meet a "We Deliver in Fifteen Minutes, Or It's Free" guarantee, undercover cops rushed to pick up a pizza, then raced a beat-up Corolla--Dominoes emblem affixed to its roof--to said street corner.  In their haste, these hard-working detectives forgot to call for police backup.

After drop-off and non-payment, a Fullerton Detective, dressed in Dominoes uniform, showed his badge and attempted to arrest this gang of youthful offenders.  Shots rang out; 20 FTT Boyz scattered in all directions, and a four block-wide police cordon was erected, with my apartments unhappily in the epicenter.  After a long night of door-to-door searches, German Shepherd dogs snarling and barking, loud megaphones, lighted helicopter searches, and general mayhem, few suspects were apprehended.  The next day, one-third of my tenant base packed up, never to return.

So yes, Rev. Willie Holmes; I, too, know how it feels to be violated and terrified.

We gradually returned to an uneasy but peaceful coexistence.  I've talked to, pleaded with, ignored, legally prosecuted many members of this tribe. But I've never dissed my homies.  I came to understand my initial burning hatred for these boys was simply excess baggage.  The best way to go along was to get along.  Carefully pick one's battles; put the past in the past.  And always look ahead to better days.

The epic Dominoes Operation is now largely forgotten.  Though, from time to time, a few senior Gang Boyz and I--those who've survived jail time, chronic unemployment, disease, loneliness--we play-act the event. "Freeze, Pizza Gang Boy!" I call out.  "No F**king Way, Pizza Man!"  We learned to accept one another for who we were, and for our respective shortcomings and foibles.

Yesterday, I separately interviewed two FTT Boyz, sons of the then youthful Dominoes Pizza buccaneers.  Details of their stories varied a bit, but the gist of what happened was consistent.  They were disrespected.

Coming to an intersection, a gray 1981 Mazda 626 driven by Rev. Willie Holmes, came upon a large FTT Gang Boyz gathering.  Rolling down a car window--one report claimed he actually stepped outside the vehicle--17 year old  Willie Holmes Jr., student body president at Fullerton High, was said to have uttered a few well-chosen, muttered oaths under his breath, against the boys of Valencia and Highland.  The rest is history.

"A group of about 20 youths.darted in front of Holmes' car, shouting "FTT".They  surrounded the car about a block and a half from the church.Holmes drove around them and headed for the church. Willie Jr. called 911.  Once they reached church, Holmes and his passengers ran from the car and hid inside the church office.  The attackers ran to the church lot and began throwing rocks and bottles at the office."

As for Gang Boy disrespect, to pillage a House of God; they weren't aware, from the small industrial park location, they were attacking a church.  Both Boyz said they'd never been invited, so never went there before.

I thanked each FTT boy for his informed assistance; we parted with Gang Boy Salutes, knuckle-to-knuckle.  We agreed this was a first-hand, second-hand report, but somehow I suspected I was getting the real story, right from the Horse's Mouth.  Chew on that, LA Times!

My recitation of events, as retold by these unnamed FTT participants--or close friends of participants--is similar to the so-called Willie Holmes story, with one important distinction.  I've presented a plausible causal explanation for the problem; a cynical disrespect conveyed by--or at least perceived to have been conveyed by--one Willie Holmes Jr., upon a large group Fullerton High School classmates.

Assuming, for the moment, it actually was Holmes Jr.'s. disrespect which provoked FTT into action; what was it in this handsome, likeable, African American young man's background to come by such disrespect?

Fast forward to Tuesday evening February 17.  As attached Register article summarized, a second "March for Peace" was staged, down Valencia Drive, the heartland of FTT-land.  As participant in this event, I was treated to some of the most crude, ill-advised protest techniques I've ever witnessed.  Dr. King would not only have completely disavowed the raucous crowd invited by Willie Holmes, but would have immediately gotten down upon his knees, and prayed for their divine forgiveness and redemption!

I arrived at Majesty Christian Fellowship industrial corral, to be greeted by none other than pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Wiley Drake.  Yep, the same legendary hate-monger, whose concealed-weapons permit was recently unceremoniously revoked by new OC Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens. Say Drake: "In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God, I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer,"  In other words, Wiley Drake urged his faithful TO PRAY FOR EVIL TO BEFALL THINE ENEMIES!  I knew it was going to be a memorable evening.

Next cast entrée, Harley Bikers for Jesus, scheduled to lead this noisy rag-tag of a Passion Parade.

Members of Majesty Christian Fellowship abounded, some carrying long stakes, banners and ram's horns which were explained to me to be "Weapons of Spiritual Warfare".

Finally addressing his assembled flock, which resembled more a casting call for Day Of The Locust from Nathaniel West's scabrous portrait of Hollywood than a nonviolent, nondenominational peace rally, the Rev. Willie Holmes stirred up his crowd with a venom of hateful invective:  "Brothers and Sisters, as we gather round our shattered sanctuary, we come together for Restitution.Ooops, I meant Restoration!" C'mon Willie, get your speeches straight!  He continued, "We need to drive that Racism Crap outa here!"  Yes, Willie, but Hitler tried that approach, too; the driving-out part, that is!

Whipping his followers into a frenzy of Restitution.Ooops, I meant Restoration, Rev. Willie Holmes next led the march, astride three blaringly loud Harley bikers-this, in a normally pristine Working Class residential neighborhood!  As we walked by Latino families, disturbed from an otherwise nice evening, I was reminded of Minuteman Jim Gilchrist's marches through Latino barrios, joined  by OC Sheriff's Deputy and Costa Mesa Mayor, Allan R. Mansoor.   Boy, Fullerton's really turning into another authentic town of hate!

As we rounded the home stretch, turning north onto Richman from Valencia, I breathed a sigh, and thought to myself, "Maybe this hateful, boot-stepping charade will come to a peaceful end!"  Not so.  A huge African American woman, true Willie believer, next to me, limped along with a cane, and started screaming at the top of her lungs, "PRAISE    J-E-S-U-S, Praise the BLOOD, the BLOOD OF J-E-S-U-S!!"  I casually remarked to her, "Maybe they (befuddled, frightened, glaring Latinos) might not understand the blood part?"  At which point, her volume increased four-fold; and summoning every last ounce of emotion and fury, she rained down a torrent of abuse upon my faithless, carnal nature.  "JESUS AIN'T GONNA NEVER ACCEPT YOU, YOU SINNER!"  I smiled charitably, adding "A-Men, Sista!" every chance I got.

But our Nuremberg-style rally wasn't yet complete.  Upon our return to Dachau Holmes,   The Right Rev. thanked his followers, inviting his chosen to address the crowd.  Despite  having gone out of my way to introduce and ingratiate myself into his good graces,  I wasn't called to testify.  Instead, a man they called Rot Wyler, the meanest, hairiest Harley Biker I'd ever seen, gave a quick hate pep talk.  "Yeah man, I used to live 'round here," his implication and insinuation dripping--around all these f***ing Latinos--"And you know, it's just not cool what's going on here."

I couldn't have said it better myself. "It's just not cool what's going on here."

In spite of it all, on a one-to-one basis, I genuinely liked Willie Holmes.  I told him, "Brother, I can feel your pain"; he reached out, hugged me, and I hugged him back.

He embraced me.  Just as, a long time ago, I embraced my enemies, the Fullerton Tokers Town Gang Boyz.  I sure hope Willie Holmes teaches his son, Willie Jr., how to embrace his enemies, I thought.  I sure hope he does.
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29 comments
Nick Ames
Nick Ames

Keep On Truckin' with The Pen, Brutha! This is just the type of Writing and Reportage I want to do, from Local to International subjects. Just Real type of narrative.

Gigimm
Gigimm

sandy im curenttly writing a report for my english class on the origin of the FTT gang.I  Who can u refer me too?

Guru
Guru

This article sucks. There is no evidence supporting the nonsense spewed by the author. This is complete garbage reporting.

Crumpcameron
Crumpcameron

I married a latina and am white. Not all mexicans are bad people! That is like saying all russians are evil because they are communist. This whole "disrespect" this is a load of crap. I was attacked by FTT members while I was in high school. My vertebre was damaged and am now disabled because of that attack. No matter what someone says or does deserves that. If you want to represent your "hood" I think that it would be best to di things good for your community. I found this article interesting but I think it was too biased

No
No

horrible

Anonymous
Anonymous

This pastor was doing lewed acts that's why the guys wanted him out. Now do you get it. I would of attack him to... His a pastor.

JOE
JOE

LOVED THIS ARTICLE, WHY BECAUSE IT WASN'T ONE SIDED IT SIMPLY STATED THE FACTS IN MY OPINION.AND I DONT BLAME ANY OF YOU FOR NOT UNDERSTANDING TTF OR ANY NEIGHBORHOOD CREW/GANG/CLIC/ WHAT EVER YOU WANT O CALL IT, UNLESS YOU ACTUALLY GREW UP IN ONE AND IT SUCKS FOR THESE STUDENTS THAT GET STUCK WITH TEACHERS THAT DONT UNDERSTAND THEM, BUT JUDGE THEM, WHAT THEY NEED ARE POSITIVE ROLE MODELS WHO THEY CAN RELATE TOO AND LOOK UP TO.

robert
robert

tokers town, does not respect any one. not even themselvs. why is there things for youth of east and not youth of west fullerton?

Melt One
Melt One

Willie would never start shit with FTT, or anyone...To all those kids in FTT pick on other gangs not the innocent people who dont deserve it.Watch your backs next time you try to jump someone.

jack
jack

This sounds no different from any and all FTT acts. Allways in a group because they are such low life whimps they have no balls to try anything of this kind on their own. So it just goes to show even though the gang still exists it is just as week and sissy like as it always has been. Skinny little whimpy cholos with no future and no heart. Just like their dads, cousins, and fellow sissy gang members before them NO BALLS

M H
M H

I am glad to know that when I feel disrespected I can turn to violence! Physical assaults are not the appropriate response to words. As to what Jesus do, i guess he would turn the other cheek. Another problem is this thing called respect. Respect, as I learned it growing up, was earned for positive contributions to society. Unfortunately, it has been hijacked by thuggery. Respect earned by fear and terrorism (yes, I equate gang behavior with terrorism) is unacceptable.

Mark
Mark

I've lived in Fullerton for the last 51 years. Attended the public schools here and St. Mary's Catholic Church. I may have gone to school with some of the parents of the boys in the FTT. Many were my friends. This is my background info.

I think there is a problem with "Religions" who approach Catholic's as not being "Saved". This is something I find offensive. I have heard "Born Again Types" say "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven". I have seen this used as an excuse for bad behavior too many times by born again types, but it is a personal failing and not a knock against what they believe.

The said disrespect shown was based on the remarks made by Willie Holmes Jr. Being the student body president at FUHS he may have the opinion that the boys in FTT are troublemakers and they are "Sinners" not being part of his religious beliefs. If this is true and he did in fact say something which was interpreted as disrespectful then "he" is responsible for the attack.

The boys in the FTT are responsible for their actions but would there have been an attack if they weren't provoked? No, don't think so. Willie Holmes Jr. should understand that it was his actions that caused the events to occur. That people have been arrested for a crime which he provoked. All this damage based on what, religious differences? A perception that "these people" are troublemakers. He should have considered that other popular born again phrase, What Would Jesus Do? .

FUCK DIA AND FTT
FUCK DIA AND FTT

FUCK DIA PUSSIES AND FTT FAGS FUCK ALL OC CHOLOS PURO OG VNE PUTOS

M H
M H

In response to AJ, I agree. He isn't defending them-Sandy has an odd need to be liked by this gang! So AJ, what do the following lines mean when you apply reading comprehension:

"Though, from time to time, a few senior Gang Boyz and I--those who've survived jail time, chronic unemployment, disease, loneliness--we play-act the event. "Freeze, Pizza Gang Boy!" I call out. "No F**king Way, Pizza Man!" We learned to accept one another for who we were, and for our respective shortcomings and foibles." (So Sandy, how much jail time have you done?...chronic unemployment? Check out your writing. I know you are addressing the gangmembers, but you includes yourself.)

"we parted with Gang Boy Salutes, knuckle-to-knuckle." As I noted before, I personally know gangmembers (former students of mine and other teachers). When I see and talk to them, I do not use gang lingo or "salutes." Is this a need for your "homies" to accept you? (Again, the use of homies-a need to be accepted?)

Others claim he has a journalistic scoop? What??? I don't see this as a journalistic effort. It is biased, partial, and too self-absorbed. This is less about the gangmembers or the churchmembers. but more about Sandy. His scoop is interviewing the gangmembers! His description of the peace rally doesn't prove much. His quote of Holmes doesn't match the comparison to Hitler. So, reading comprehension is good.

WeST sIDE DIA
WeST sIDE DIA

HEY FUCK ALL U FTT FAGGOTS, THIS IS DIA FOR LIFE, GET OUT OF FULLERTON

David Zenger
David Zenger

Looks like Pastor Willie's got some 'splainin' to do about what was going on up in Hillcrest Park. This is going to put a dent in his fundraising.

AJ
AJ

If any of you actually think Sandy is defending gang members, you need to go back to school and learn about this thing called reading comprehension.

Nacho Libre
Nacho Libre

So let me get this straight: this "janitor-turned-writer" is taking the word of a gang member! Too much cleaning solutions we have been sniffing my friend! This hack has nothing to say. i was there at the council meeting when he support that churches efforts. i was there when he talked about his "homies" being a black eye to his city. he his pissed, first, because is name is Sandy. Second, because cause his white-hooded pals on the council looked stupid- with one leaving in tears because she couldnt take it anymore! And when did he become the barometer for a proper march? The only marching he has done is from the first to the second floor cleaning crappers, which is what this article smells like! shame on you SANDY for putting a kids life in danger. shame on you and your klan-loving city council! It;s good to know that fullerton rather invest money in to some old beat-up building (Fox Theater) than invest in community out reach programs!

MS
MS

I have know Willie Holmes Jr. since he was in first grade at richman elementary, then to Ladera Vista and Fullerton Union High School. I can't say that we are the best of friends but I can say that I have never know Willie Jr to be someone who would provoke a fight or to be a fighter. This 'journalism' that Sandy calls himself doing doesn't have anything to do with his agenda, being close to members of the Fullerton City council does it? With the city of Fullerton looking bad for the lack of response to this incident, could he in effect use this journalism as a way to dilute the truth. Sandy attended the meeting at Majesty Christian Fellowship, Feb. 18, and at that meeting he spoke and NEVER mentioned his 'journalism' that he had done. As a matter fact when he spoke he agreed with the outrage of the Holmes family but defened the actions of the City of Fullerton. All of this seems to coincidental to me. But in the end I hope Sandy feels good about spreading lies, Ooops I mean 'journalism', on the Holmes family, in particular a kid that I know would not even approach gang members, let alone disrespect them. Because of him he's making a good kid, who's worked hard look bad. And this is how a landlord of Fullerton repays a kid who's stood for doing the right thing. But I guess in America when we can't face the fact that sometimes the answer to our 'why' won't always add up we just make up stuff or claimed we researched it, and call that 'journalism'.

Gustavo Arellano
Gustavo Arellano

Sandy was there; I was not, and it doesn't seem you were, either. Makes it a worthwhile read to me, but doesn't mean I agree with the conclusions.

Sam
Sam

There's nothing "well worth the read" about this. Stiassni clearly thinks pal-ing around with cholos makes him some kind of a G, but he doesn't document any actual racism or violence on the part of Holmes and his church supporters--just makes lots of baseless, slanderous implications. "Nuremberg-style rally"? "Hateful invective"? Stiassni doesn't demonstrate that anyone involved did or said anything anti-Latino; he just puts lots of words into people's mouths. I guess in his mind, if someone rides a Harley, they must be a bigoted asshole, no further evidence is required. Total bullshit, Gustavo.

VQ
VQ

That article is BS. Those so-called disrespected G's all should be put in Gitmo. They have no civil rights as far as I'm concerned.

Arturo Bandini
Arturo Bandini

Hey self-righteous dummies: Sandy's article is about journalism, not about justifying the actions of gang members. He answered the question 'Why'?: Holmes' son's inflammatory remarks and a history of antagonism by Holmes in the community. He just punked the hacks at the LAT whose incomplete article makes Fullerton look like Bosnia circa 1990.

Nice work Sandy.

Juan Fulano Perez
Juan Fulano Perez

I used to substitute teach in East L.A., for L.A. Unified ("Homicide"?) School District (usually at Garfield & Roosevelt High Schools), and gang members fighting each other at school, was fairly common.

One of the favorite (convenient?) excuses gang members used to pick fights with other gang members was, "He/she dissed me!", and naturally the "victim", gang member would deny the allegation.

Needless to say, we staff members couldn't prove the cause of the fight (and who started it), because--conveniently enough--there were no other witnesses to the fight (just the word of one ganger member against the word of another), so the only "fair" thing we staff could do, was discipline both parties involved.

For all we know, the FTT Boyz, used the "dissing" allegation as a convenient excuse to jump Rev. Willie Holmes' family & vandalize their church.

Furthermore, since there are no other witnesses that so far haven't come forward (how convenient), it's Rev. Holmes' word against the word of the FTT Boyz.

tacojones
tacojones

Sandy S, This article stinks. Your message stinks. And nitwits like the "gang boyz" you so lovingly glorify stink too. I hope one of em steals your car.

M H
M H

Wow! Their actions seem so justified now. How dare someone disrespect them, on their home turf nontheless! So exactly what was the purpose of a late night gathering? Planning their next community service activity? Before attacking me for being "insensitive" or some other personal attack, I work in an inner city school and have watched many youth turn to gangs. Not once has this decision lead these youths to make positive choices. At my school, large groups of gangmembers assemble on our playground as their turf. Parents and their children scramble off the playground to avoid confronting these punks. These gangmembers harass these families and the school's teachers. I know they act like they have to join a gang because of how hard it is to survive in these neighborhoods-but they are the ones destroying innocent people's lives. This is not a Latino against the world issue. And I disagree with the attitude that we need to live with gangmembers in our communities and try to get along. You don't decide to "live" with aggressive cancer. You eradicate it for the survival of the whole.

yaz
yaz

Wow. Thanks.

gabriel san roman
gabriel san roman

Sandy is a good guy and has an interesting take here. It was a long read, but a good read. I would have missed it otherwise, so thanks for posting it.

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