Gangs of the East Village: Life as a Satan’s Sinners Nomad

Last Saturday, Jose Quiles spoke to a group of students at P.S./M.S. 34 on East 12th Street. Some were the age that he was when he first entered the gang world.

Responding to a recent spate of violence, Rick Del Rio, the senior pastor at Abounding Grace Ministries, had invited the man many in the neighborhood know as Cochise to a basketball tournament, barbecue, and youth outreach session, to speak about his rough-and-tumble life on the Lower East Side.

Mr. Quiles was born on St. Marks Place in 1961. He joined his first gang at the age of 13 and then in 1988, formed one of his own: the Satan’s Sinners Nomads. After attempting to kill two of his fellow gang members in 1993, he served 18 years in prison. At the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., he began counseling gang members; he was released in January and now, as a resident of Campos Plaza, hopes to steer at-risk youth away from what he said was an assortment of gangs in the neighborhood, including the Bloods, Money Boys, and Latin Kings.

Screen shot 2012-07-18 at 9.42.13 AMCourtesy Jose Quiles Mr. Quiles speaks at P.S./M.S. 34.

The situation, he said, has only grown worse since his own days of gang involvement. “You have your drug gangs and then you have your regular crews that are just fighting for turf,” he said. “Some of these guys are just very young.”

“A lot of these people want to see change in the lives of their younger ones,” he said of Alphabet City residents. “There’s fear; everyone’s aware that at any time anything can break out.”

Mr. Quiles is currently at work on a memoir. Clayton Patterson, who photographed the Satan’s Sinners during their day, is convinced he has an important story to tell. “Cochise is a very valuable person,” he said. “Not only because he’s highly intelligent but because he’s really interested in preserving the history of the neighborhood. And he’s willing to talk about the past. Which is highly unusual, especially in the gang world.”

Watch The Local’s video to hear him tell his story in his own words.