A Life and Death on Shotwell

Shotwell softball team, Frank Peña kneeling on right in the early '80s. (Courtesy of Louis Lucero)

Shotwell softball team, Frank Peña kneeling on right in the early '80s. (Courtesy of Louis Lucero)

Their jerseys said “Shotwell” in bold letters and they posed making “S” shapes with their hands. They were the kids growing up on the 1000 block of Shotwell Street in the ’80s, and it wasn’t “Shotty Block,” like kids call it now. It was the “Shotwell family”—and according to them it wasn’t a gang.

Peña on lower right in blue acket. (Louis Lucero)

Peña on lower right in blue jacket, Tony Lucero to his left circa 1980. (Louis Lucero)

“It was a street with a bunch of really tight families,” said Tony Lucero, who grew up on the block with eight siblings.

When Lucero first met Frank Peña—the new 11-year-old on the block who was a whiz at sports and spoke English with an accent—low-rider culture and the “cholo scene” were big in the neighborhood. Only Lucero’s spit-shine charm could coax Peña’s protective mother, Olga, into letting him out to play. She was from Nicaragua, but she knew that what happened on 24th Street—the guys with headbands, the cars cruising, the girls, the drugs and alcohol—could swallow a boy up, according to family friend Ricardo “Junior” Martinez.

Thirty years later, Peña was still living with her when he was shot at Papa Potrero’s restaurant on 24th Street alongside 26-year-old Francisco “Cisco” Cornejo in September. Police believe the brawl, which started with fists not guns, was Norteño-on-Norteño gang violence.

But Peña wasn’t active in a gang, neighbors and some close to him insist. He’d beaten his demons, they said, such as selling and using crack, which led to scattered county jail stints from 1991 to 2000. He’d created a new life with a full-time job, a newborn son and a girlfriend studying to be a nurse. Kids looked up to him, and neighbors saw him as a gregarious, magnetic family man who had learned to navigate the Mission’s many worlds.

But another close friend—and police reports—indicate that Peña’s involvement with gangs, at least through the 90s, was more significant than neighbors or friends knew or let on.

In recent years, however, friends say Peña’s message to kids was to stay off the street.

From left: Tony Lucero, Peña, Corey Edgerly

From left: Tony Lucero, Peña, Corey Edgerly in past year. (Louis Lucero)

“Me and Frank were the ones who stayed on the corner. We were the ones who showed the younger kids how to come up,” said Tony Echevarria, one of Peña’s best friends from childhood, of being a 30-something on the block. “[We] saw it as a special responsibility to keep our way of doing things, our legacy.”

Their way of doing things meant not looking for trouble, and definitely not letting a small argument or fight escalate.

But escalation is just what may have led to the murder of three men that weekend in September, which began with the shooting of 21-year-old Michael Sanchez two days before Peña’s murder.

According to Sergeant Mario Molina, the San Francisco Police Department’s foremost expert on Latino gangs who arrested Peña several times over the years, these kinds of shootings often start over a “personal matter”—minor insults, arguments over girls.

“If there was a turf war, we’d see more bodies,” he said of the murders.

Unraveling exactly why Peña ended up a victim of alleged gang violence may not be clear until the 19-year-old charged with this murder stands trial, but the life and death of Peña, the 41-year-old 49ers fan, offers a glimpse of how difficult escaping one’s past can be.

Shotwell football team. Peña on lower right. (Louis Lucero)

Shotwell football team. Peña on lower right. (Louis Lucero)

From left: Cory Edgerly, Tony Echevarria, Peña, Tony Lucero

From left: Corey Edgerly, Tony Echevarria, Peña, Tony Lucero. (Louis Lucero)

Edgerly and Peña. (Louis Lucero)

Edgerly and Peña. (Louis Lucero)

The Center of Their Universe

Peña moved to the Mission in 1979, when he was in sixth grade. Photographs show him with Adidas stripes racing down his gangly sleeves, huge eyes and big teeth. He was the youngest of the kids in “Shotwell” football jerseys, the only one with his white collar popping out from below. In more recent photos, he’d filled out and traded his baseball cap for a trim-cut goatee and mustache, tattoos on his forearms and gold earrings in both ears.

It was only a year after Peña first moved to the neighborhood that gang activity took root in the Mission said Sergeant Molina. “It wasn’t about colors at first,” he said, referring to the red versus blue rivalry between the two major gangs active in the Mission, the Norteños and the Sureños. That didn’t come about until the mid-80s. Back then, “It was about neighborhoods.”

That was true for Peña and his peers. He and his three best friends—Corey Edgerly, Tony Echevarria and Tony Lucero, all born the same year—were inseparable, “like brothers,” Peña’s mother said. They called Peña “Turtle.” And Shotwell Street was the center of their universe.

Its energy had centripetal force.

“You could walk from Mission to Potrero on 24th Street and you were probably shaking hands like you were running for president,” said Edgerly. “You knew everyone.”

During the summer of seventh grade— “that summer,” they call it—the four friends spent their days cruising on bikes down to Pier 39 to play arcade games, “strutting and breaking” to hip hop, practicing the robot and—more than anything—playing sports.

“Any sport that had to do with legs, Frank excelled at,” baseball and football especially, said Echevarria, who at 6’8” went on to play professional basketball in Puerto Rico and Mexico. “[Frank] could run like a gazelle.”

“Sports were an escape. It kind of felt like bliss when you were playing,” said Edgerly.

The older brothers organized baseball and basketball teams, which were a great way to keep out of trouble and blow off steam.

“It was a less violent time,” Edgerly remembers, “a time when friends weren’t dying.”

Tattoos, Parties and Drugs

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that people started carrying guns, said Echevarria, and “the whole culture changed.”

“What happened to Frank… it was unheard of when we were growing up,” he said. “We weren’t about running into somebody’s pizza shop in broad daylight and doing something like that.”

But it wasn’t all sunny during the years Peña and his friends went from being adolescents to young men. Echevarria said of the older boys they idolized, “They taught us how to drink, how to smoke, the correct way of doing a negative thing.”

As teenagers, Peña and his crew traded in bikes for cars. Then came tattoos, parties and eventually drugs.

“We got high a lot. We experimented with cocaine, we smoked weed,” Echevarria said. “But we weren’t drug addicts.”

That would come later for several of the kids growing up on Shotwell, including Peña and Edgerly.

“Tony Lucero is the only person I knew growing up who has never drank or done any pot,” said Ricardo “Junior” Martinez, one of the slightly older guys who remained friends with Peña throughout his life and who also struggled with addiction from a young age.

In 1986 at the age of 18, Peña’s father gave him a brand new Ford Mustang, which he loved to race through the city with friends, and there was no looking back. School was secondary to having a good time, and Peña never graduated from Mission High School.

Through their early 20s, Peña and his friends loved to go clubbing, not just in the Mission but all over the city. “We would love to boogie and get down,” said Edgerly.

But at some point around this time, Peña’s experimentation with drugs crossed a line, and by 1991, landed him in jail for the first time.

That Drug Makes You Do Things You’d Never Dreamed You’d Be Doing

Peña wasn’t alone. Drugs in the Mission were a “rampage” through the nineties, according to Sergeant Molina.

“You couldn’t walk down 24th Street without getting offered dope,” said Molina of the early part of the decade. Dealers sold drugs out of their mouths and hid their stashes in the chaos of Asian-owned dollar stores on Mission Street, he said.

It was then that Peña started asking friends for money, and stealing.

“That drug makes you do things you’d never dream you’d be doing,” said Martinez, who was also addicted at the time.

“He used to carry a gas can to get money to support his habit,” said Louis Lucero, a close friend of Peña’s and Tony Lucero’s older brother.

Peña’s behavior nearly ruined his friendship with Louis Lucero at one point when Peña let himself into Lucero’s mother’s house unannounced. She came from the back of the house to find him standing in her kitchen. She told him never to come back, and he ran out.

Later that day, Louis found him hanging out at 25th and Treat streets.

“I grabbed him and threw up against the wall. I told him don’t even come on the block anymore,” he said. “That kind of shook him up. Right after that, he went to jail.”

Peña was 23 years old when he was sentenced to a month in jail for possession of PCP in 1991, according to court documents. It was the first of several drug-related arrests over the next decade, all with a similar outcome: county jail for six months or less, probation, work swap or drug treatment.

Friends and family lost track of him soon after he served his time in 1991.

“He left and we do not know where he is,” his brother, Lucas Monge, wrote in a letter to the court. Monge’s death eight years later would have a major impact on Peña turning his life around, friends say. But at that time, he wasn’t reporting to his probation officer, and a judge issued a bench warrant.

Friends mention him moving to Daly City to live with his father and then to Philadelphia before returning to live with his mom in the house where he grew up on Shotwell Street.

“It was probably pretty lonely for him when he came out,” said Louis Lucero, referring to jail. “I guess from all those years of him just running around and burning people, he had to get their trust back.”

Peña began making amends.

“After he got out, he made it a point to come up to me. He thanked me for [shaking him in the alley that day]. Actually for saving his life, he said,” said Louis, the memory choking him with tears.

But Peña’s troubles with drugs continued, according to court documents.

In 1994 he was sentenced to six months in country jail—his longest sentence for any crime—for being caught driving a stolen car a block from his house on Shotwell Street. In 1998 he picked up a felony for selling cocaine. And in 1999 he was arrested first for selling crack to an undercover officer on Mission and 24th streets and later for stashing 14 crack rocks in his sock and 40 more in his trunk.

The police report from Peña’s arrest in 1999 describes him as an “active Norteño gang member,” though the extent of his involvement remains unclear. He likely had some affiliation with the gang if he was selling drugs at a prime selling location like 24th and Mission streets. According to Sergeant Molina, drug dealers selling in Norteño territory had to either gain gang membership or “pay rent” for permission to sell.

Peña was not listed on the 2007 Norteño gang injunction and many friends insist that he was unfairly labeled a gang member because he was Latino and wore red 49ers gear.

Tony Echevarria is the only of his close childhood friends to acknowledge that Peña had any relationship with the Norteños whatsoever.

“We’re all from the Northside, and we’re red and we have love for all our Northside people,” Echevarria said of he and Peña, referring to Norteños. But they weren’t out to fight Sureños, he said.

“People drift in and drift out [of gangs],” said Jeff Adachi, San Francisco’s chief public defender. “People who aren’t involved in gang activities consider themselves Norteños. Then there are hardcore gang members,” he said, citing a 1997 study that assessed gang violence in San Francisco.

“Do we know these people? Yes,” said Echevarria said of hardcore gang members in the Mission. “I know the gang members and the people in prison and the people who are doing the selling and killing. But when they were going to kill somebody, we weren’t the people who they called to jump in the car.”

Echevarria was one of last of their original friend group from childhood to leave the Mission when he moved to Florida in 2003. He hasn’t visited since 2005, suggesting that he cannot visit without getting caught back up.

Back in the Flow

Even as Peña was still caught up with drugs and the law as late as 2000, friends report that he began piecing together a different kind of life starting in the late nineties. In or around 1998, Peña’s old friend Junior Martinez was trying to get him a job working on the Golden Gate Bridge. He had already trained for and passed the driving exam, but he got sent back to jail just before his interview.

Recognizing Peña’s strides towards change, a judge commented on the seeming senselessness of him still being caught up in the law.

“I can’t understand why a guy with this background here is doing this stuff again,” the judge said in court in 1999, referring Peña’s job at Goodwill, where he was working as a donation truck driver, friends say.

This was soon after Peña’s brother Lucas Monge died, which deeply affected him. Peña was in custody at the time, though court records show he was granted permission for leave to attend the funeral.

“That was real tough on his mom. And real tough on him because he wasn’t there when it happened,” said Louis Lucero. “It was a big changing point in his life. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the fast life after that.”

“When he came back, he was on fire,” said Edgerly of Peña’s return from fast living and jail time. “He was eager, just positive. He got away from whatever demons [he had.]”

From the late-’90s through his death in 2009, Peña became a neighborhood fixture on Shotwell Street. Always hanging out on his stoop after work, neighbors came to know him for his routine. He started a full-time job at City Electric Supply, which he held until his murder and friends said he loved. On the weekends, he spent hours washing his beloved white ’80s Mustang convertible and silver Lexus with fancy rims as salsa music played on the boom box, neighbors said.

“Frank was not out there talking crap to people…[he] had a purpose in life,” said Tammy, a neighbor of nearly 25 years who only wanted to use her first name. “He was trying to do the best he could given the fact that he lived in the Mission. His big thing was to take care of his mom and his girlfriend.”

Peña crouching on lower right,  Tony Lucero to his left with friends in 2008. (Louis Lucero)

Peña crouching on lower right, Tony Lucero to his left with friends in 2008. (Louis Lucero)

Even those new to the neighborhood saw more than the tattoos down his forearms and tough-guy appearance.

Alli Warren was one of them. She describes herself as the “girl in her financial district clothes… playing the role of a gentrifier.” She and her boyfriend moved into the unit right next to Peña in 2005, where they stayed for three years.

“Frank could have easily felt we were impeding on his space. But he was consistently friendly with us,” she said. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons I had so much affection for Frank. He kind of welcomed us in. It was his stoop, his block. If he liked us, everyone had to…it’s hard to reconcile [what police saying about] Frank being in a gang actively with everything I saw of his daily life.”

Warren recalls walking by a large group of kids hanging out drinking and smoking in front of the house. They didn’t harass her; they offered a cigarette.

“He was a down-to-earth person…. just really easy to talk to,” said Tony Lucero of why kids in the neighborhood looked up to Peña so much.

“He’d tell people to stay off the street, but still in a cool way. You have to have that kind of toughness when you’re from the concrete jungle,” said Louis Lucero.

Francisco "Cisco" Cornejo in white on couch, Peña on right. (Louis Lucero)

Cornejo on couch, Peña on right in 2009. (Louis Lucero)

At the time of their deaths, Peña was letting Cornejo stay at his house, according to friends. Cornejo’s mother died a few years ago, and he would have been homeless were it not for Peña, said Louis Lucero.

The 26-year-old Cornejo’s most recent entanglements with the law were in 2006, according to court records, though it appears the only crime he was convicted for was harassment by telephone. Like Peña, he was not listed on the Norteño gang injunction.

“He saw something in Cisco he was trying to preserve,” said Martinez. “Every time you saw Frank, you saw Cisco.”

Other than Cornejo, Peña left time for his son, “Little Frank,” who is a few months shy of a year old, and his girlfriend Marjorie Reyes, the mother of his son, who could not be reached for comment.

Peña talked of moving away from the Mission to create a better life for his son, several friends mentioned.

“’I don’t really want little Frank raised in the same environment I was raised in,’” neighbor Allie Warren recalled him saying.

Memorial for Cornejo and Peña shortly after their murders in September. (Rosa Ramirez)

Memorial for Cornejo and Peña shortly after their murders in September. (Patrick Kollman)

And indeed, moving away from the neighborhood was what it took many of his friends to escape the demons that chased them, be it gang affiliation or drugs. Peña was the only one of his close childhood friends who still lived on the block.

“I heard he tried to move away a couple of months ago, but it didn’t work out for him,” said Edgerly. “That’s the block. I can’t really fault that because it’s everything to us, he said.”

“Our whole identity in a way.”

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37 Comments

  1. Conscience

    What is going on with the Local Mission lately???…it seems that some stories are just to get out the way some assignment. The mission district has a lot more to offer among artists and events…also are more problems in the district to paid atention to.
    “A Life and Death on Shotwell Street” is waste of jornalism effort, why glorify a gangster???
    why glorify the ganster life???…when the real issues in the neighborhood are their lifestyle!!!…

  2. RE; Conscience

    wow, this provides a great insight to the lives of young people growing up in the mission. Not only that but I can see great parallels to that of any poor neighborhood. You have a distinct trait or virtue that allows you to see more than what meets the eye in how peoples lives unravel… great article, great read. Thanks so much!

  3. This is why I tell kids to stay out of gangs. Once in you’re never really can get out unless you move out of the City.

  4. scott crosby

    Thank you for the nuanced profile of Frank. I was dismayed by the cursory coverage around his murder, and it’s nice to see a much more thoughtfully researched piece. He was always really nice to us neighbors and I liked him. Some of the dudes who hung out on his stoop were bad news — yelling and fighting and drinking all night — but Frank was cool and the 1000 block is poorer for his absence.

    btw, comment #1 is friggin’ idiotic.

  5. patricia

    Vanessa, Thank you, for taking the time and writing this article about my brother.

  6. Brian

    Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful piece. Understanding begets understanding.

  7. alex gomez

    I thank yu for the latest update . yu broght me back in the past i grew up , i am from bernal heights on precita park. i also saw some guys i went too school with i thinks they were obinas brothers on shotwell we played local football those were fun sundays games they don’t played anymore not like the old days. like yu said we were family thanks for people like yur self still around not forgetting our past. keep in touch god bless yu/family.

  8. fconsicence

    conscience – its isnt glorifying gangsta lifef its talkin about a man who decided to turn his life around, he was a product of his environment and he didnt want his own son or other kids on shotwell to go through the stuff he experienced. yea the mission is about art and culture but gangs are also a part of the mission and have been for a long time. RIP Frank i know your watching over your family and so will everyone else who loves you.

    Merry X-mas frank & cisco

  9. Sofia

    Reading this article brought me to tears. I personally knew Frank through my finace, Victor Hernandez. Frank was a damn good man and an even better friend. He purchased his car insurance through me, and we always looked forwared to seeing Frank walk through our door to pay his premiums, which he was never late on by the way..Like I always told Vic, Frank has got to be the most respectable friend you have. Never once did he ever disrespect me or anyone in sight….and those types of friends are hard to come by…We miss & Love you Frankie Frank…Until we meet again…

    ps. Thanks for the great article..it gives people a better look into the real Frank’s life..

  10. la honeybee

    keep your faith up! keep on praying hard for better dayz

  11. albert

    I grew up in the Mission….Im a little older than these guys but I did know Lucas Monge and pretty much the same story happened here on Bryant 8 of us grew up on the block and 3 are gone

  12. albert

    I grew up in the Mission I knew Lucas Monge. Pretty much the same thing happened here on bryant 8 of us grew up here 3 are gone.Now the white folks are moving in and the Mission that I knew is dissapearing

  13. Moe

    Vannessa Good job thanks 4 the heads up on article!

  14. Willie Miller-Castillo

    Vanessa thankyou!For the well written article-God Bless Cisco and Frank-Frank turned his life around!We all deserve a 2nd chance! Mission District Love!!!Por Vida!!!Thank Louis Lucero for the pictures! Willie and Bruce Castillo

  15. Carlos A

    RE: CONSCIENCE

    This is our lives and our reality. We live on Shotwell everyday. We do not just come down to the Mission to see artists or events. The SHOTWELL FAMILY is a tradition from back in the days. You obviously do not live on Shotwell and you fail to see beyond the story. You may not understand or like this and we are not asking you to, but please do not comment because your reality is obviously different than ours.

  16. Carlos A

    Frank, you where a great man, better than most I have met in my life. I allways looked up to you and I still do because you are in heaven. You tried to make me talk more but I was allways too quiet, I guess it was my way of showing you how much I respected you.
    YOU WILL BE MISSED FOR EVER.
    REST IN PEACE FRANK

    Carlos.

  17. junior 24th shotwell

    Venessa thanks for the new story about are Lil brother Frank hopefully other people will change their views like #1 it’s people like him that gets everything twisted Frank we love and miss you dearly, don’t worry all of us Original’s from SHOTWELL and the SHARKS will do all we can to help raise your son lil Frank 1 love Mr.Junior from SHOTWELL

  18. Tami

    Vanessa, Thank you very much for the follow-up article on Frank. I thought it was beautifully written and thank you for actually taking the time to see that there was another side to Frank other than what the media and police were originally reporting. He left a huge void in many people’s lives and Shotwell is definitely not the same without him or his cheerful smile neither is the financial district. May God Bless you Frank and I hope you’ve found your way to Lucas…..You will always be missed.

    Tami

  19. Mission For Life

    It is obvious that Conscience is not from around here and doesn’t have a clue as to what the Mission represents. The Mission represents family and culture…and it is a shame that the recent gentrifiers feel like they have some claim to the Mission and the “artists and events.” People like this make the families who have been here for years sick! I bet Conscience wouldn’t come on the block and say that. I wish Conscience and her crew would just pack their bags and move back to Wyoming and take their “artists and events’ with her. The Mission will do just fine without her and her republican, short sided ideology.

  20. Ruben

    The article leads people to believe we all were getting high. There were some of us that stayed away from drugs. We grew up playing together. We only hung on Shotwell playing games like: 1,2 3 heat, 1 foot in the gutter, hide and seek. We were a family that looked after one another. We also were very involved in sports. We played in organized SFPD/Horizon softball league, Folsom Park football/Softball and Park N Rec Softball leagues. Every Sunday we would also attend Church at St. Peters and St. Anthony’s. We were good kids. Things started to change as drugs came into many neighborhoods and wanna be like East Los Angeles gangs were on the movie screen. I remember watching Boulevard nights. This movie changed the mission. Before this movie, there was some light weight marijuana, cruising and tagging. After the movie things went out of control. People were trying to act like the characters they saw on the big screen. I was too busy with school, playing sports and working to get caught up. I was lucky because my friends protected me from going in the wrong direction. I could remember coming home from work and wanting to skip my night classes in order to hang out with the guys. My friends weren’t going to let this happen as they walked me to Bart and sometimes dropped me off to school. My friends also had respect not to have drugs around me. When they wandered off, I knew exactly what was going to happen. We were never a Gang. We were a group of kids that depended on each other. We accepted each other for all our strengths and faults. Shotwell was a special place but now I fear for the new generation that are lost. Today they have cell phones, video games, drugs, gangs etc… Back in our days just being together as a family was enough. We had respect for all the different neighborhood groups as well. We played friendly games between, 22nd, Folsom, Treat, Precita, 14th Street, Day Park, Hampshire etc….. It was sad to see one of our family members losing his life at a young age. Any life lost in horrible. The Shotwell way was not to show how tough you were but to show how much you cared for family members. There are great memories that will never be forgotten. I wish all our young people today could have an opportunity to taste life without watching your back and enjoying good times.

  21. rawdog

    Every dog has it’s day…

  22. Zapatista del Sur

    although i ain’t from the mission, i grew up in Richmond across the bay, and it’s way more intense and violent than the mission. while it’s a nice tribute to a person who gave the impression that he was turning things around, i still think there are more interesting and important things to write about other than embellishing the life of a gang-banger who died a while ago. no offense, but this guy was given more than a second chance according to this updated article, and the cops even say he wouldn’t have been killed if he hadn’t had involvement with the gang. Even though he may have had a calm demeanor, he was still hanging out with irresponsible people? obviously he was still getting into fights, instead of using his mind to talk things out? i’m just saying, because for me growing up in Richmond, their was no softball teams, no community family, no daddy to give me a mustang, just violence and perseverance and hope. i had nothing, but i never turned out to be a banger. i’ve had plenty of friends like this character, and all of them put their selfish needs, weather it be drugs, money or pride before their friends or “family”. so why praise him, he just another martyr. he walked this path, no one made him. I came from Mexico as a child, and for the most part, I and all the other undocumented peoples I know never received fair treatment from most Xicano nortes, bangers or posers. I was routinely harassed and ridiculed for being Mexicano, sticking to my roots and not giving in to the norte Xicano b.s. In the southern states of Mexico, communities are really tight knit, to the point that if you are part of that community, but engage in narcotics/oppressive activities, you will be branded for life as a drug pusher, never to be trusted. one can remaing in the community, but never be trusted again and always looked down upon as a negative energy. those drugs and actions destroy communities. in Mexico they won’t tolerate it because the communities dont do any drugs, but here i believe Americans, be it Xicano, african americans or asian americans or whites tolerate this crap because they themselves use so many drugs too.
    you wanna write a good article, write about the people who come here with nothing and but achieve something…like me. not those who have something here but throw it away for nothing.

    -Zapatista del sur

  23. Jennifer J. Littlefield

    I have lived in the Mission my entire life, and am proud of it, my sister Lee has been married to Louis Lucero for over twenty five years. We lived on Hampshire when they met and I indirectly knew Frank from going to Shotwell for family parties and just hanging out he was always a fixture in the neighborhood and at the 49er games. Every time I would see him he would allways say Hi, he knew me as Lee’s sister and was just showing respect to his Shotwell Family. I was in Reno in September and I called my house to check on my Mom, and my nephew Joseph answered the phone and at first I thought I had called Lou & Lee’s house then he said he was there because Mom & Dad were going to Franks funeral then it hit me it was Frank from Shotwell Lous bro and I got chocked up, when I got back home I headed to Shotwell and saw the memorial and confirmed my earlier thoughts. My condolences to the Families for both our fallen brothers, May you rest In Peace…Homey

  24. Carlos

    Zapatista del Sur-

    I am also a born Mexican and I have overcome many obstacles to be where I am. I live on Shotwell and grew up with a bunch of kids who are now dead, in gangs or dead. I graduated from Berkeley last year. This does not make me better or worse than Frank or anyone else on Shotwell.

    The article is obviously not about you because no one cares about your story. So shut the hell up because regardless of how many mistakes Frank made, he is missed more than you ever will. Are you perfect?. So write your own article and shre it with yourself.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR.

  25. Tony Price

    My family were from the Mission District, from back in the forties, the neighborhood back then consisted mostly of Irish and Italian.I was born in the early sixties when the Mission was primarily Latino. I was fortunate to have grown up with many of the people presented in this artical, the Mission I remember was families and families who had grown with each other in ten and twenty even thirty year spans, most of everyone in the neighborhood knew each other. It was community. The schools at that time Le Conte, Hawthrone, Edison, Marshall, Horce Mann,ect. The teachers had jobs there for decades they knew your older brothers and sisters, and would know the younger ones coming next! Corner stores knew your Moms, Dads,brothers & sisters. Families the Mission was about Families! And working class at that! Kids played sports in the streets together or hung out at the parks because there were several, or did music, or had local agencys such as Horizions Unlimited, R.A.P. Precita Center, Mission Cultural Center, Centro Latino. There were outlets, I agree with Ruben after Boulevard Nights things changed, but we where influenced by Super Fly & Kung Fu too. The story of Frank Pena reminds us that even when you are older and have changed the violence of a youngster trying to prove his manhood with senseless pride carries on. It’s not the first time and unfortunately won’t be the last. I pray for Franks child and family that they may never again lose some over something so senseless. I still think the Mission was better then the place it is now. The answer is in the community, will the people living there now invest, get to know the children and families moving in. Economically we had to stick together we were in the same boat, who will donate time to the community and be teachers, coaches, mentors and guides. That is what all neighborhoods need. Shotwell was a great place I loved hangin with the folks there!
    Tony Price

  26. Marco

    This is a very good article — insightful and interesting, showing the complexities of growing up in the Mission. The problem though is that people accept the gangbangers as “part of life” and idolize them instead of turn them away. If you let a cancer live in your midst it will spread. Mission people need to rise up and finally say to Nortenos and Surenos to get the f*&% out, to stand up and say we’re sick of your violence. Mission residence are quick to protest police profiling, etc. When is the last time people protested the real problem — MS13, Nortenos, etc.

  27. Willie Miller-Castillo

    Re:Zapatista del Sur——Like you said”You ain’t from the Mission” So you don’t understand where we “Who are from The Mission” are coming from!!!!!! Nor could you Ever!!! Write about Richmond-which I could care less about! Willie

  28. Zapatista Del Sur

    RE: Carlos and Willie

    Ah, you two missed the point of the criticism.
    You see, Your friend Frank was a casualty of the white man’s war against la Raza and all other non whites. But the gringos don’t get their hands dirty, they have us do a little divide and conquer amongst ourselves. by playing by the white mans rules and trying to be like him, we basically kill each other off. Gang-banging or street hustling, doesn’t matter, your playing into the trap and eventually your gonna catch a hot one, from your own kind more than anyone else. obviously both of you have fallen into that trap also. your comments clearly show divided and conquered minds…”you aint from mission, you don’t know where we coming from…” “write about richmond cuz no one cares”, “he will be missed more than you ever will be” wah-wah, blah blah, sound like childish comments to me.
    truth is, it doesn’t matter if it’s the mission, richmond, san jose, fruitvale, harlem , east LA, its all the same violence, the same divided and conquered communities, the same cia sponsored drugs, the same traps, the same temptations, the same excuses , the same knuckle heads that get themselves into these situations. it’s not our fault or frank’s that the white mans concrete jungle is filled with these poisons, but it’s our fault and his fault for not having the will to turn our backs on these temptations, these traps. i guess our “families” and “unity” were not enough to keep us out of the meat grinder, right?
    what gets me is that a lot of these young kats and OG’s alike talk about respecting their ancestors, honoring the Mexica calender and all other kinds of beliefs, but if they truly honored those beliefs, then why engage in a lifestyle contradictory to that?
    it’s nothing against your friend, im just pointing out the contradictions and shortcomings of our communities and society as a whole. it’s good to know frank has solid, loyal friends like yourselves, to honor him before and after death.
    it’s just that i see things very differently from most americans…i came from the jungles of chiapas, where life is very real and much more dangerous; and moving into a concrete jungle like the ones up here, it lets me see the similarities, differences and root causes of human suffering. any life lost is a tragedy…

  29. rawdog

    RE: Marco
    -I agree with your comments, but mission people need to also tell not just the gang bangers, but the felons, thieves, rapist, knuckleheads and fools who have been giving too many chances to get the F&%! out. there are also a lot of losers in the community college system, who are their to meet women and not learn. i met this guy once who said he couldn’t finish his cc schooling cuz he got in a fight with the police at his graduation? WTF! he even sounded proud about it..? so it’s not just nortes and MS13, but also felons, knuckles heads and uninspired, unmotivated lazy people.
    -VIVA LA RAZA STUDIES

  30. Willie Miller-Castillo

    Lets try to stay focused here,we’re trying to honor the lives of 2 young men who died way before their time ,so at least acknowledge the possibility that few facts are in,other than the standard gang related tag that gets thrown around all too often.The fact these guys were unfairly labeled as gang related are both false and unfair.That will soon be made clear because there has been an arrest in Mr Penas case.People deserve 2nd chances and far more people have been successes coming out of this community than not.Most of the old home boys and homegirls have bought property and headed for the suburbs awhile back.We still feel close to this community and hate the violence and crime that has plagued it for all the years it has.But at the same time growing up in this place was special and if you were able to take advantage of some great programs and a little luck,you could hustle money legally,rather than sling drugs or commit robberies.Most of our peers got schooled in one trade or another or went on to college.In short we are hardly losers going at one another or the pawns in a conspiracy dreamed up by the white man.The overwhelming percentage of people off these streets have actually became hugely succcessful,and are committed to maintaining a close connection to their roots.I think the story was interesting and worth telling,so apologies if you did not.You might be a little quick to judge.Most of the people you are labeling,have a story a lot like yours.We residents are a resilient group who are proud of the many great people the Mission has produced.We can maybe agree that we should hear more about these folks than we do. Bruce And Willie Castillo

  31. El Ozelotl

    I guess it was 2 youngsters 15 and 17 that killed these two. The cycle of violence and ignorance continues, the two youngsters just put the two dead guys where they were heading anyways. if they really were inspirational people trying to keep youngsters off the street, then why did some youngsters kill them? probably cuz they was involved with some kind of narcotic or gang activity. logical deduction foolz. out with the old, in with the new. except that we are ushering our new generation into prisons and the same fast track path of violence and institutional exploitation that these two older knucklehead bozos died of…they did that to themselves and there is no need to martyr them as men of the community, so that my kids and others can look up to a criminal that everyone feels sorry for??? B.S.

  32. Corey Edgerly

    Frank is my brotha’ and I will miss him dearly. I will do everything possible to provide for his son. Everytime I look @ my son. I gr

  33. Corey Edgerly

    ab him and hug him just a bit more for his Tio’. Love yo’ friends because nobody has to be yo’ friend. People choose who they want as friends and I appreciate mine everyday! Frank Jr. introduced me to my eventual wife and mother of my children. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the family I cherish today. I can’t put in words what he means me, but I love Olga Pena for bringing him here. If you know her. You’ll know why we all love him so. MJ if you ever need anything I will be there. You are a queen who lost her king. I am one of his knight’…s who will do what’s right. I will always remember my brotha’ Frank because he helped me get here. Any success I ever have is credited to Jesus and the outstanding people who have been around me. Francisco J. Pena believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
    -Mr. C

  34. Margaret

    El Ozelotl,

    You and others who have left derogatory comments obviously didn’t know Frank. He was a good man with a great heart. Perhaps you shouldn’t be watching so much television. A word of advice: jumping to conclusions undoubtedly based on stereotype and the trope of recalcitrant urban gangsters is going to lead you to some seriously inaccurate conclusions. How about applying some critical thinking skills instead of knee-jerk reactions?

  35. R.I.P HOMEBOYS U WILL ALWAYS B REMEMBERD SHOTWELL POR VIDA!!!!

  36. MUCH LOVE GREEN EYE$ FROM DAT BIG BAD $HOTWELL OLDER HOMIE$

  37. Matthew Oropeza

    Cisco Cornejo was not a gangbanger.

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