Silver Lake Gang War 

Homeboys and hipsters struggle to claim Silver Lake

Thursday, Oct 9 2003
Photo by Vince Valladolid

On a recent afternoon a Latino woman and her son wearily shuffle past a makeshift shrine in front of a shabby apartment complex on the 700 block of Vendome Street. The shrine, nearly obscured by a discarded mattress and other litter, is dedicated to Valentin Rangel, a member of the Silver Lake 13 gang. He died there in a hail of bullets over Labor Day weekend, two months shy of his 26th birthday. A half-dozen Mexican religious candles, a few still burning, decorate the scene. A photo of a smiling Rangel is propped up next to them. Scattered alongside the photo are personal mementos — two skateboarding magazines, a pair of black sunglasses and a Holy Bible. “RIP Val” is spray-painted on the street in front of the memorial. Across the street, on the corner of Vendome and Marathon, a small bouquet of wildflowers and one Mexican candle mark the spot where Rangel’s brother Mario was gunned down 13 years earlier by rival gang members and where Valentin himself was shot before stumbling across the street to his apartment complex.

A deep fly ball from there, the type of urban hipsters who have earned Silver Lake its bonhomie-boho image obliviously sip café con leches at the Tropical Café and discuss Tsar’s latest show at Spaceland. The two scenes illuminate the stubborn contrast between Silver Lake’s chic main drag and the neighborhood south of Sunset Boulevard. In the streets abutting Vendome and Marathon, a spate of gang violence that started on Labor Day weekend has been responsible for several drive-bys, a car bombing, two deaths, and the rattled nerves of longtime residents and more recent arrivals who hoped the checkered neighborhood had made the transition from barrio to bourgeois.

Though gang activity has long been a part of the landscape in Silver Lake, particularly south of Sunset, residents say the recent violence, which has sent at least 40 gunshots echoing through the neighborhood, is unprecedented. On August 29, the first six shots took the life of Rangel. Another gang-related shooting — possibly tied to Rangel’s murder — only a week later and just blocks away on Bellevue left an Angelino Heights gang member injured and his friend, 28-year-old Juan Monsivais, dead. More recently, members of La Mirada gang unloaded a hail of bullets across a busy park at an SUV they believed to be carrying enemy gang members.

Related Stories

  • Best Live Music in L.A. 6

    Los Angeles has some of the best live music venues in the city. Take these, for example.  But what if one prefers to enjoy bands in the cozier settings of a bar or restaurant?  Here, then, are the 10 best L.A. bars and restaurants with live music.  10. Casey's Irish Pub...
  • Hipster Lakes Battle 9

    Whether you wish to join their ranks or avoid the nuisance, the precise location and behavior of the phenomenon known as "hipster" seems to be a matter of dire importance to all Angelenos. These gentrifying, culture-conscious creatures can be found preying on vintage purses, foraging for craft beers, avoiding basic bitches and...
  • Silver Lake Murder 4

    A man was fatally shot at a Silver Lake Del Taco today, police said. The attack on a busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard near Hollywood was reported at 10:55 a.m., Los Angeles Police Department Det. Meghan Aguilar told us. The killer was described as a teenage boy, not older than...
  • "Secret" Chinese Delivery Hits Silver Lake and Los Feliz 4

    While there's a whole world of Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley, it's a common complaint among residents of the rest of Los Angeles that the sketchier stuff can be difficult to find. I'm talking about the kind of crappy but delicious Chinese food that's incredibly common in most...
  • Pine & Crane

    If you don't want to travel to the SGV for excellent dan dan noodles, scallion pancakes and mapo tofu, wel l... you're kind of out of luck. But Silver Lake now has a decent option for these things, in the form of Pine & Crane, a Taiwanese restaurant owned by Vivian Ku,...

The level of gang violence occurring in this area, while far from the city’s worst, is happening at the same time property values have gone up 33 percent this year alone and “bargain” homes are selling for more than a half-million dollars just north of Sunset. The unexpected rash of violence here illustrates a gangs-versus-gentrification drama that’s likely to play out in other neighborhoods across the city as the overheated housing market pushes prospective new homeowners deeper into the fringes of long-held gang turf.

“I think that people thought the property values would automatically help with a problem like gangs, and I guess that’s not necessarily the case. They can still come into the neighborhood and do what they want,” said Linda Froiland, who moved here three years ago from Minnesota and who is co-president of the Silver Lake Improvement Association.

Police are unsure how or even if the recent violence is connected. Locals, though, point to a heated graffiti-tagging war between rival gangs in the area, one headed by Rangel, as the spark.


By all accounts, and judging from the audacious way he’d sign his name to his tags, Rangel was the main provocateur in the graffiti battle that at first presented locals with more of a nuisance than a threat when it flared up six months ago. His signature tag, “SL13Val,” sprayed on the cars, homes and businesses in streets around Vendome and Marathon became a common sight in the neighborhood. It was often scrawled over 18th Street gang graffiti. A former gang member familiar with the area says Rangel was asserting control of the area for “recruiting, to sell drugs and claim the street.”

The gang member, who asked not to be identified, believes that four gangs are currently vying for the drug trade that has been going on in the area since the 1970s, when the 18th Street gang ruled the streets. At one time, a dealer could make $800 a night selling dope on the corner of Vendome and Marathon with little threat of being arrested. Recently, the Aztlán gang had controlled the drug trafficking there, but neighborhood activists and cops worked with a local landlord this past spring to evict the last remaining active Aztlán member, who dealt out of his apartment on Vendome.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Scenes from the O.J. Simpson Circus
    In the months after O.J. Simpson's arrest for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in the summer of 1994, the drama inside the courthouse riveted the masses. But almost as much mayhem was happening right outside the building, as well as near Simpson's Brentwood home. Dissenters and supporters alike showed up to showcase art inspired by the case, sell merchandise, and either rally for, or against, the accused football star. Here is a gallery of the madness, captured by a photojournalist who saw it all. All photos by Ted Soqui.