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Cowboys gear illegal for gang members in training camp city
Police say fans in Oxnard, Calif., where gang has taken team's symbol as its own, shouldn't worry about clothing ban
By Fred Alvarez
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Saturday, July 31, 2004
OXNARD, Calif. -- Paul Gallegos fancies himself Oxnard's biggest Dallas Cowboys fan. So naturally he worried when he heard police would be on the lookout for people wearing the team's trademark blue, bold star -- a logo co-opted two decades ago by a local street gang.
The self-employed accountant jumped into his Mercedes-Benz convertible -- outfitted with a custom license plate frame declaring his Texas-size dedication to the five-time Super Bowl champions -- and drove to the police station just to make sure he was in the clear.
Turns out "America's Team" is holding its summer training camp in probably the only city in the nation where wearing Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia could draw a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
"All I needed was to get shot at or pulled over for interrogation," said Gallegos, 42, who is among hundreds of local fans ready to welcome Cowboys players, coaches and cheerleaders as they begin training today in Oxnard.
Police and prosecutors earlier this year obtained an injunction that prevents the city's largest and most violent street gang from congregating in public, flashing gang signs and wearing Dallas Cowboys attire within a 6.6-square-mile "safety zone" in the heart of Ventura County's largest city. Violators are subject to arrest and misdemeanor charges.
Authorities, however, assured Gallegos that he would have no trouble behind the wheel of his CLK 320. "They said, 'I don't think gang members drive cars like this,' " he said.
Members of Oxnard's Colonia Chiques started taking the team's apparel and logo as their own in the mid-1980s, police say. They remove the "w" on Cowboys T-shirts and jerseys to form the words "CO BOYS," short for "Colonia Boys." They also took a liking to the Dallas Cowboys' star -- tattooing it on their shaven heads, for example. Officers said they recently encountered a suspected Colonia gang member with Dallas Cowboys bedsheets.
The gang's Cowboys gear has the power to spread fear among residents, authorities said in court papers. Just the sight of a Cowboys jersey or cap is enough to spur an attack from a rival gang member, even if the wearer is an innocent football fan, authorities alleged.
Since the injunction was granted in June on a preliminary basis, the Chiques have laid low and street violence has subsided, Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez said.
He said the clothing restrictions apply only to the three dozen or so Colonia gang members who have been served so far with a copy of the court order. Lopez said neither the team nor the herd of Cowboys fans expected to ride into town over the next three weeks have anything to worry about.
"The guys we are concerned about aren't true Dallas Cowboys fans," Lopez said. "Our guys know who the gang members are. They are easy to pick out because they've been in trouble so many times before."
Tourism officials expect as many as 125,000 people to attend the practice sessions and spend money locally.
"It's kind of a fluke, I guess," Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez said of the Cowboys-Colonia Chiques connection. "Of all the professional sports teams in the country, it's just a coincidence the Cowboys would come here. But we're glad they are."