The Sammy Dominguez Story
Written by Rayford Johnson/ThugExposed.Org
“It was Familia first, before everything, even before my own mother, before my own family, I put them first. I’ve been locked up all my life, since 10 years old,” Sammy Dominguez, a former “shot caller” for the Nuestra Familia reflects back in an interview for ThugExposed.Org.
Sammy explains his long and violent journey through the juvenile hall system, youth detention camps, Youth Authority and then graduating into the California Department of Corrections, where he spent over 26 years of a life sentence for a gang-related murder in Soledad State Prison.
Sammy grew up in the “hood” in Bakersfield, California.
“My stepfather was a drug addict, he was one of the main dealers there in Bakersfield. One thing he always schooled me on was ‘Do what I say, not as I do.’ He schooled me about drugs. What I saw in him, what I saw in my uncles and friends and homies, I didn’t use drugs, that’s what made me a good soldier out there dedicated to what I was into. I didn’t start using drugs until I was in the pen and that was about seven years after I’d already been in the pen, at a point when I was bitter, full of hatred and didn’t have no kind of peace, so I start fixing, just to feel some kind of peace.”
As a youth, Sammy became a hardened Norteno gang member through years of gang banging and even suffering an almost fatal gunshot to the head. He moved up the ranks quickly to become a member in the Nuestra Familia. He was recruited in the County Jail while awaiting charges on some gang-related shootings.
“They liked the way I carried myself,” Sammy recalls.
He said that the Nuestra Familia intervened in getting the charges dropped at the time, by talking to those who were going to testify against him. He would later be brought up on those charges again, and convicted, because one of his crime partners turned state’s witness.
“When you take somebody’s life, there (are) consequences behind that. It’s not just killing somebody and walking away. Something happens to you. You’re not the same as you were, once before. I didn’t know this until way down the line, when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. When we take the position of taking one’s life, we are taking His (God) position, because He’s the only one who has the right to give life and take life. I use to walk like everything revolved around me; me, myself and I. As far as God was concerned, no, I felt as if I was God. And by taking someone’s life, the peace that I thought I had at one time, was completely gone, because I was just bitter, full of hatred. That’s why I turned to drugs. And doing life, I didn’t care about nothing, or nobody.
“Because of the hardness of my heart, God allowed some things to happen to open my eyes, He was getting my attention.” It started with a bloody riot Samy was involved in, in 1985 in Soledad State Prison.
“What started off to be between the NF (Nuestra Familia/Nortenos) and EME (Mexican Mafia/Surenos) turned out to be just a big free-for-all, because everyone was getting off, literally all hell breaks loose.”
“After they take all my people out, I’m left by myself. During this time I get rid of the piece that I was working on for the big search and during this lock down, word gets to me that says, as soon as we get off, you’re dead.”
“My mind is set already, I got nothing to lose, I’m doing life. My mindset is, I’m taking one of them with me, it doesn’t matter which one.”
During this lockdown, after they do their search, I bust down another piece, so I’m ready. But then I get this letter. I have no celly or nothing and I get this letter from my ex-wife. We’ve been divorced for a few years, no contact whatsoever. Out of the clear, I get this letter from her. In this letter she’s sharing the gospel with me. Three verses she quotes:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteousness right hand.”
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
After Sammy read those verses, he searches for a Bible that was given to him by an unlikely source.
“I had this Bible there that was given to me from my enemy, the guy I killed, his brother. He sent some Christian people to visit me. I’m thinking it’s just another set-up. And I go down and there’s a man and a woman, behind the booth, it was behind the glass. They have a guitar and they introduce themselves, and they say, ‘you’re Sammy Dominguez.’ I say, ‘yeah…’; they say, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but Danny sent us to see you.
He says, ‘you’re his worse enemy, you killed his brother. But since he’s been out, he has acknowledged Christ as his Lord and Savior and he would like to see you do the same in due time.’ And from the time I went to the pen, they would visit me once a week, sharing with me. And they gave me this Bible and just before I was getting ready to catch the chain to go to the pen, I try to get rid of it. I see one of my homeboys going home, I say, ‘Hey, do me a favor drop that off by my mom’s, because I don’t want to throw (away) this nice Bible you know. So the cops say, ‘No, you keep your property.’ So the Bible followed me all the way until that night when the Lord was speaking to me.”
“It seemed like all these Christians were being put in my path. Out of respect I always listened, but because of the hardness of my heart, I continued in my ways.”
“When I had opened this Bible up to look up those verses, it just seemed to just speak to me and I received a peace.”
“It was only when I acknowledged His Word that I felt a peace. Peace that I had when I use to fix was nothing compared to this peace. This peace was fulfilling, it wasn’t like the drug I used to fix that was gone, soon as the high was gone, which is only temporary. The peace I received from the Lord was fulfilling, it stood with me. When this was going on, I realized there was a war going on in my cell for my soul and the devil, he had me. I guess I was one of his best soldiers there, and he wasn’t letting go.
“And during this lock-down I’m reading this Bible and I couldn’t get enough of it, but I would have to set it down. I said, ‘nah, I got to face this, I got to deal with this, it’s either kill or be killed. There’s no ifs and ands about it.’”
A few months into the lockup, Sammy has a family visit.
“It was mom and my little brother. Since I was in the pen, they had come to get saved. I go to the visiting trailer and it just seemed like a big load was taken off me, temporarily. There is my family, I’m happy to see them, they’re happy to see me. I would never tell my mom or anyone.
“My little brother, he’s about eight at the time, he says, ‘I just want to tell you, Jesus loves you.’ I’ve always been one to listen out of respect. I said, ‘that’s good mijo, I’m glad to hear that.’ I then said, ‘let me go talk to mom.’ I wanted to make a way just to leave. As I’m talking to my mom, she is preparing food, she starts crying and I said what’s going on and she tells me, ‘I wasn’t going to come,’ and I said, ‘why is that?’ She said, ‘but I felt I had to tell you personally.’ I said, ‘tell me what?’ She says, ‘I went the doctors and they ran tests on me and they found traces of cancer in me.’
“You know when they gave me life, it didn’t really phase me too much, I accepted it, I embraced it, because I knew what I really deserved. Just throughout the years, it just hardened me that much more. My divorce and everything, I just cut everything loose on the streets. See when you’re in the pen doing life, you can’t live in there and the streets at the same time, you’ll lose your mind. So I cut everything loose out there.”
“But moms, she has always been special. And so when she’s telling me this, I sit down, I don’t say nothing, the only thing that’s coming to mind, is that I’m going to lose my mom, I done lost everything else. She then says, ‘It’s OK Mijo, it’s OK, let it out.’ You know, in reality, my heart is so hard I can’t even show emotion for my own mom. So I just get up and go to the bathroom, I don’t even turn on the light and I’m standing in the pitch darkness and it’s typical of us to start blaming God. “How can you allow this to happen to her, she’s serving you?”
It seemed like I was standing there for a long time, but so clear, these verses start coming to my mind. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” And I respond, ‘I never trusted in nobody and you ask me, want me to trust in you?’ I felt at that moment I was talking to the Lord. I never trusted nobody, but you ask me to trust in you. I say, ‘I can’t deny this peace that I felt.’ I want that, so at that moment, I asked Him to come into my heart. ‘Come into my heart, be my Lord, be my Savior, because I want this peace, I want to keep it.’ You know it just seemed like everything was going to be alright. He says, ‘Call on me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knows not.’
I think then and only then, was I able to show emotion. I went out, and I didn’t even tell my mom what took place. I just went and we had a beautiful visit. Before she leaves, she says, ‘I got another appointment, they’re going to run more tests on me in a couple of weeks.’ I said, “OK.’
So I go back behind the wall and the tension was so thick, as soon as I walk in you can cut it with a dull knife. And you can feel that hatred, the ugliness, you know? So
I go back to my cell and I still don’t have a celly. I’m in there; I pull out that Bible and start reading it again and during this time when this is all happening, I’m talking to the Lord, I’m conversing with Him, feeding off His Word. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Soon crisis Intervention starts during the lockdown. They start pulling out communicators from the different gangs. Sammy, being a long term shot caller at Soledad, is appointed as the communicator to represent the Nortenos.
“There was a war still going on in that cell. I tell God, ‘I’m just going to put it in your hands.’ I stepped out without my piece (weapon).
Sammy then proceeds to talk to the rival shot callers at their cell door. Sammy conveys that he is amazed by the supernatural favor God provides to bring a peace between the two rival gangs at that time, so they can proceed to reintegrate with each other on the yard.
Sammy explains that after his transformation, that when he would get together in his gang “huntas” or meeting, “I felt like an alien there, like I didn’t belong there. Something was telling me, you have no business here anymore. So I started congregating with some other Christians and found out that’s where I fit in.”
Weeks go by and Sammy receives news from his mother on the phone, that doctors miraculously can no longer find any trace of cancer in her. I said ‘Praise God.’ She said, ‘What?’ That was the first time she ever heard me ever say anything like that, I repeated it again, ‘Praise God’”
“She said, ‘you know Mijo, this is something I’ve been praying for all these years. I said, ‘Praise God because it’s all about serving Him now.’”
“So after the conversation I get off the phone and here comes some of my carnales (brothers); we start walking and they say, ‘what’s up, when are you coming back to the family?’ and I just looked at them and I said, ‘I’m still doing life behind you fools,’ and I Iooked at them and said, ‘It’s all about serving God’ and they responded, ‘You know what? We can respect that, but you know what, we’ll be watching.’
One carnale said, ‘It’s just a phase you’re going through, you’ve been down so long.’ I said, ‘If it is, praise God, because it feels good.’
Sammy’s gang wanted him to investigate “Big D”(Donald Garcia), the co-founder of the Mexican Mafia (Eme), the Nuestra Familia’s rival. Word was that he had become a born again Christian, and the Nuestra Familia wanted Sammy to find out if it was authentic, because he had just arrived there at Soledad.
Sammy said his gang told him, “We want to make sure he’s on the up and up. If not, we are going to make a move. We want you to check it out. We know you’re a Christian, doing your Christian thing. Hey, and if he’s a Christian then it’s all good.”
“An opportunity presented itself. I went and introduced myself to this brother, and man, I mean our fellowship was beautiful. Yeah, he was a brother.”
Sammy said that when he and “Big D” would walk the yard together, inmates would do a double take, because the North and South were so heavy then in gang warfare.
Sammy chuckles as he remembers a Correctional Officer once joked, telling both of them while they were walking, “Hey did you hear, there’s a farmer and a fly together, they’re Christians.” Sammy said he and “Big D” would smile and look at each other and say, “Praise God,” and be on their way.
“The Lord was taking me to my enemies.”
Sammy said scripture was being revealed such as Proverbs 16:7. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, even his enemies are at peace with him. I was literally living that, you know.” I would be sharing with my enemies in the shower, they would just be dumbfounded and they would just trip and we would just start talking and they would open up.”
“One brother, he was a Sureno shot caller, one day we are on the yard, waiting to come in on recall. We used to hate each other, I mean we hated each other. One day we are just standing there and I said, ‘How are you doing, Antonio?’ and he looks at me and says, ‘Hey Sam,’ I said, ‘yeah, how are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m doing alright.’
I said, ‘Don’t trip. I’m serving the Lord.’ He says, ‘you know what? I got a sister. She writes to me all the time. She is always sharing with me.’ I said, ‘that’s great, you know.’ I said, ‘If you’re not doing anything on Wednesday night, I would like to invite you to come down to the church.’ He said, ‘OK.’ I said “Praise God.” I put my hand out and he accepted it.
So that Wednesday at worship, there he was. He was in the back, but you know what, when it came for an altar call, he was there. He acknowledged Christ as his Lord and Savior.”
As time went on, Sammy stated that he would often point to him and say, “You (know) that brother Sam, he was a shot caller for a long time here, we hated each other, but you know what, the Lord used him to touch me, to reach me, and it’s because of him that I’m saved.” Sammy begins to chuckle and he said he would tell him, “No, it’s because of Jesus you’re saved.”
After serving 26 years, Sammy was released from prison, by the Grace of God and is now married with children. He operates a successful welding business and is still going strong preaching the Gospel and setting the captives free in Jesus’ name.
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