Fresno, street gangs: A boy’s tattoo gets under their skin

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On that April evening, the mood in the house on East Redlands Avenue was festive.

Alisa Quillen had a pot of pozole simmering on the stove. Her twin daughters and other family members were out in the garage, where Travis Gorman was inking a new tattoo on his friend Enrique Gonzalez.

When Gorman finished, Gonzalez’s 7-year-old son and namesake began pestering his father. “I want a tattoo like you, Dad,” he said, Quillen remembered. Gonzalez said no, but the boy persisted.

Finally, the father relented and Gorman tattooed the outline of a dog’s paw print, about the size of a quarter, on the boy’s hip.

By then, Quillen was back in the kitchen. “Grandma, look what I’ve got,” the boy said when he found her there.

“I was thinking, wow, that’s not good,” Quillen recalled. “But I said, ‘Oh, that’s cute.’ He was so proud of it.”

A few weeks later, the boy’s mother spotted the tattoo and called the police.

What happened next would turn a father’s questionable judgment into a major criminal case — and force a community to ask whether it was possible to go too far in efforts to battle the street gangs that threatened it.

When it was all over, the father and the tattoo artist were on their way to prison. The boy’s tattoo was being removed by a dermatologist.

But the scar of an ugly, yearlong legal battle remained, and no one was happy with the outcome.

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