MS-13 graffiti

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In Los Angeles, one active gang member agrees to talk candidly with Lisa. For the interview, he goes by the name "Jester." Jester is only 20 years old, but he's been a member of MS-13 since he was 8. Violence is the first step of MS-13, Lisa says—"gang-bangers" must always prove their toughness. In an initiation ritual called "jumping in," new members are beaten for 13 seconds.

Jester says he shot someone for the first time when he was just nine years old—the only time, he says, he ever felt scared. "Imagine this," Lisa says. "He's a little boy. He walks up to a group of six rival enemies and he's so scared that he starts firing his gun [with] his eyes closed. ... He opens his eyes and he sees that one of them has fallen. He [then walks] away to the getaway car, because MS members never run."

Since that first shooting, Jester says he has lost count of how many rival gang members he's shot—but he admits to Lisa that the number is more than 20.
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FROM: Lisa Ling Goes Inside One of the World's Most Dangerous Gangs
Published on January 31, 2006

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