Apr 24, 2014 7:43 PM by Tony Spehar

Former east side gang member speaks out about recent violence in Pueblo

PUEBLO - The recent spree of gang violence, six drive-by shootings and a house fire caused by arson, has one former gang member calling for the people of Pueblo to take action.

Court documents obtained by News 5 on Thursday show that Pueblo Police believe the violence was sparked by conflict between top leaders of the Latin Aces and the Bessemer Street Locos.

"The rivalry between Bessemer and the east side right now has kind of overblown," described Rudy "Reddog" Balles, a former gang member. "Because our community hasn't come together to address these illnesses that have been plaguing our community and now we're facing an overflow of this violence and the young people that are involved in theses gangs."

Balles grew up on Pueblo's east side.

"I grew up here in Pueblo, experienced this violence in my family as well," he said. "I've lost a sister, I've lost many family members."

A troubled life at home lead him to a gang, he said that's how most young people end up in gangs.

"A lot of time these gangs are adopted families," he explained. "Extended families to people who have lost a lot of support in their own circle."

But Balles was able to turn his life around, now he's trying to help others do the same thing and to prevent young people from joining gangs. He said the focus needs to be on education, to give young people pride and the tools to build a better life. He now attends CSU-Pueblo, there he's gathered a group of fellow students willing to hit the streets and reach-out to those in need.

"You go back to your own town, there's gangs everywhere, it's just not based in Pueblo," described Eduardo Garibay, a CSU-Pueblo student from Greeley. "That's why it comes to your state of mind to want to help to do something about it."

But Rudy Balles said the entire community needs to help if the gang problem is to be solved. He wants to push city, county and state leaders to devote more resources to gang intervention as well as fixing up the community to restore pride to the neighborhoods.

"I think that we address the violence in every community," he explained. "It's not just about poor people, it's not just about Chicanos and it's not just one part of town, nor is it about one gang."

He said he's an example of why nobody should be considered a lost cause.

"By no means because you're in a gang are you lost," Balles said. "I think people change lives many times in their life, their identities and who they'll be."

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