Jesse Guajardo choked back tears on the witness stand in federal court as he abandoned his second family once and for all. He had grown up in the Latin Kings street gang. After an uncle recommended him for membership in 1988, he suffered a beating or “violation” by three Latin Kings to join the gang’s ranks. By 2006, at age 29, he was a chapter leader in the southwest suburbs, commanding two dozen soldiers and making his betrayal of the Latin Kings that much more stunning. He was facing life in prison in a drug case when he decided to cooperate with the government.
“I had no choice,” Guajardo said during the drug conspiracy trial of his onetime gang boss, Fernando King. “I had to choose to continue to be a Latin King or continue being a father. I didn’t ask for this.” Federal authorities call Guajardo’s cooperation remarkable and say his testimony was a significant moment in their battle against Chicago’s entrenched street gangs, reports the Chicago Tribune. He became one of the highest-ranking Latin Kings to testify against his superiors, offering a rare glimpse into the powerful gang’s structure and reach. Guajardo secretly recorded high-level gang meetings, once catching King reprimanding members of the gang’s “Crown Town” region, near Midway Airport, for disrespecting gang rules.