Former gang member shares his story living under a gang injunction


WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - A former gang member is sharing his story about why he believes gang injunctions can keep those on the list from turning their life around.

Monday police and an attorney shared their views on gang injunctions in Wichita Falls following news of a judge ordering Los Angeles to remove nearly all its injunctions.

Now, we are learning how they have impacted a Wichita Falls man who said he has been off the gang injunction list for about three years and walked away from that lifestyle almost ten years ago.

However, Anthony Merito feels his past continues to haunt him.

These days he spends most of his time taking care of his eight-year-old daughter.

"I know I'm a good father," he said.

He adds everyone calls his little girl his mini-me.

"I try my hardest to show her how to be a lady, and I try to show her what a man does," he said. "No matter what, that's my little girl.  I love her, and I'll do anything for her."

But Merito said while he was under a gang injunction, it made an already tough job even harder.

"Them telling you you can't be at a certain place at a certain time, driving your vehicle," he said. " I mean they're telling you how to live your life."

Danyelle Vasquez, Merito's sister, said she has had to sit back and watch him struggle, even when he was doing good.

"When he can't go cash his check because it's in a certain mile radius of the gang junction zone," said Vasquez. "What if his working uniform does call for him to wear gang colors, he has to turn away that job."

She feels things like that are not taken into consideration.

When Merito was served the civil restraining order, he was in prison and 19-years-old.

"I didn't know what it was, I really didn't," he said. "I thought that if I just signed it, I wouldn't have to deal with no fees, but I didn't know how much harassment, and I didn't know that they didn't want to see somebody try to change their life."

Fighting it in court required finances he just did not have.

"There were quite a few people who wouldn't know where to start looking," said Merito.

He is now 32-years-old and admits he has made mistakes.

"I'll deal with God in my own time, but here it seems like I'm still being punished," he said.

His sister feels the same way.

"He's paid his time to our community for any crime that he has ever committed, so that's what becomes frustrating.  When does he have to stop paying for what he's done," said Vasquez.

"At what point are y'all going to let me make it, and what point are y'all going to make me change?"

He and his sister say they believe being under the gang injunction does help in some ways, but feel it has more of a negative impact then a positive.

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