Gilbert grew up idolizing gang members, and finally joined a gang at 16. One night he was stabbed, and the reality of his decision sank in.
- Just to hear thestories of them fighting
and stuff they got into like,I was attracted to that.
I wanted to be acceptedby my uncles and my mom.
I wanted to take on thetradition of being a gang member.
- [Narrator] As a youngboy, Gilbert Gonzales
idolized his familymembers who were active
in southern California's street gangs.
To him, they were larger than life.
- I wanted to have their stories,
I wanted to be rough like them.
Be strong like they were strong.
Whatever they gotta do for their gang,
like robbing, stealing, or killing.
People dying, people getshot, it's a part of it.
- [Narrator] He moved toArkansas, but when he was 16
his uncle came to visit and officially
jumped him into the gang.
- He just started punching me in my face,
like he was hurting me,and I had to swing back.
And he says you're being jumped in,
so there was fighting, fist fight,
my own uncle beat me up.
Right away like I thoughtI was like the toughest
dude 'cause now I'mlike, I can call myself
a member of the King Cobras.
- [Narrator] His brotherseventually followed him
into the King Cobras.
Gilbert says he loved theidentity he had as a gang member.
- Anybody who was from a different gang,
they wanted to fight me.
I was always claiming it.
That's what I loved to do, you know.
And one thing I was good back in the days
was being a gang member.
I wasn't good at anything else.
That's who I was.
That's who I wanted to be allmy life was a gang member.
- [Narrator] Weekly fightsand turf wars with other gangs
were fueled by dailydrug and alcohol abuse.
- Crack cocaine, laced cocaine,and mixing it together.
I didn't care, I canremember just saying like,
well, if I'm gonna overdose,I'm gonna overdose party.
I didn't care how much I would use
'cause it was always there around us.
We were always doingdrugs, it was normal to us.
You know, it's part of the gang culture,
doing drugs, getting high, getting drunk.
- [Narrator] One night Gilbertwas stabbed during a fight.
The reality of his lifechoices finally sank in.
- I remember getting rushed to the ER.
They had to stitch me up 'cause I was cut
really deep in my back.
Just thinking about life likeis this all there is to life?
Like gang banging, doing drugs, party.
I was like man, there has to be a change,
I can't life this wayforever 'cause I'm gonna
end up dying or going to jail.
- [Narrator] But hisgangster lifestyle continued.
Soon after, he was arrestedfor public intoxication.
Late that night he called his girlfriend,
Karen, for bail money.
- I just told her, can you get me out?
I didn't have money on me.
Karen came and her momactually gave her the money.
- I told him, I'm like hey, my mom,
you know, that was my moms money.
Like she said you need to come to church.
And he said okay, and Iwas like I'll pick you up.
- And I remember going, Iwas hungover still, you know,
and I went and when Iwas in there, you know,
I didn't really payattention to the sermon
'cause I was scared of Karen's mom.
She was singing in thechoir and I remember her
coming down the steps, Ithought she was going to
slap me in service, but shejust stuck her hand out,
she was like nice to meet you.
That's shocked me.
- [Narrator] He startedgoing to church regularly
with Karen, then one day she went forward
during an altar call.
- In my mind I was thinkingis she really gonna do this?
Is she really gonna follow Jesus?
Like we never talk aboutit, it just blew me away.
Like she made this commitment.
- [Narrator] In the followingweeks, he met with a pastor
and heard about God's love and grace
in a way he hadn't before.
- I was just thinking,well he told me like,
about who Jesus is and what he did for us.
Knowing that this lovingGod died for my sin,
I was just feeling so much weight,
like heaviness on my heart.
'Cause before I neverregretted what I did,
I never felt guilty forthe people I beat up
or hurt or almost killed, like to me,
it was like I felt good about it,
but it was just eating me up inside.
I remember going in the room,being on my knees and crying.
Like I never cry like that in a long time,
and I remember justlaying everything on God,
like God I wanna change, I don't want
to live this lifestyle no more.
I'm tired of drinking, youknow, forgave me for all
the past things I did in my life,
for beating up people, andI was just done with the
gang stuff, I was done with all that.
And the way it felt in thatmoment, I was just at peace.
Like knowing that everythingthat I did in my life,
that he forgave it that moment.
- [Narrator] Gilbert leftthe gang and was set free
from drugs and alcohol addiction.
As he put his life in Jesus' hands.
- I'm beyond thankful,I'm grateful that God
changed my life 'cause I don't know
where I would be at right now.
I would either be dead orin jail or being homeless
and he has blessed mewith so much, you know.
- [Narrator] Gilbert and Karenmarried and started a family.
His brothers and mother alsogave their lives to Christ
and left the gang.
- God has mercy, you know,like answer my prayers
and my family, 'cause I thoughtthey would never change.
He changes people, he changedme, he changed my family.
- [Narrator] The gangmember identity that used to
define him has now beenexchanged for a new one.
A follower of Jesus.
- Now that I found myidentity is in Christ,
like all that has passedand the new, you know,
I'm like my new identity is in him.
I'm no longer living for myself,
it's up there for Christ now.
It's changed the way Ithink, the way I live,
all my life, the way I treatmy wife, raising my boy,
just a new identity knowingthat I've been forgiven.