'I'm Giving Them Jesus': Former Gang Leader Brings Life to Communities He Once TerrorizedÂ
- Life in Leisure City,Florida was anything but easy
for young, Rene Level Martinez.
- I grew up without a dad.
My mom was in the streets.
My mom was into the santeria which is like
a form of witchcraft.
Sacrificed an animal all over me as a kid.
And I started seeing demons.
They haunted me my whole life.
- [Narrator] At age 12, that darkness led
to a life of crime withLevel breaking into homes,
stealing guns, and gettinginvolved in drive-by shootings.
In 1990, he started a gangknown as the Latin Syndicates.
- We had almost 300 members
and feds was investigating us.
Half of my homies are in prison.
Half of them are dead.
- [Narrator] Level recallsstaring death in the face
- I remember the time thegun jammed in my face.
I remember the time thebullet grazed my head.
The other time the bulletwhistled by my ear.
The times I was running through a backyard
and they were shooting at me.
All the times I got shot at.
All the times I was half dead,
but I was still alive.
- [Narrator] Life changedsomewhat after Level became a Dad.
In an attempt to betterprovide for his family,
he pursued bare knuckle fighting
and mixed martial arts.
- I became a professional fighter
as my journey went on in life.
I was always good at fighting.
I started fighting bareknuckle with Kimbo Slice.
I was beating everybody.
We were betting money in the backyard.
Bare knuckle and winning.
My name got so big that Telemundo came
and they offered me a pro contract.
I went to Nicaragua.
Beat three-time worldchampion Ricardo Mayorga.
- [Narrator] Yet, thosesuccesses in the ring
didn't fill the void he felt inside.
- I had the money, I had the fame.
I was doing the gangstermusic, but I was empty inside.
- [Narrator] By this time, hismother had become a Christian
and began praying for her son.
In 2016, her prayers were answered
when Level had a supernaturalexperience with God.
- It's like he showed me my whole life
in a matter of like five seconds.
I just got on my knees, Istarted crying out to God.
When he spoke to me, I knew that
if I didn't surrender, Ifelt like I was gonna die.
- I am here in a communitythat was once terrorized
by Rene Level Martinez as the head
of the Latin Syndicate gang.
Today, Level is back here, but with a very
- So, it's been like two anda half years since that day.
Since that day, I've beengoing to prison, to project,
to the juvenile facilities, to the schools
for a different reason.
I came back to the streetsI used to terrorize,
but now I'm giving em life now.
Giving em Jesus, you feel me?
Before it was death,now I'm giving em Jesus.
- [Narrator] Level nowministers to former gang members
and is often seen baptizing people
in some of the city'sroughest neighborhoods.
- I'm telling em you'refixing to be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christfor the remission of sins
and you shall receive thegift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:38, and that's what I preach.
I almost died on many different occasions,
but for some reason I'm still here.
- [Narrator] Meanwhile,a documentary called
The Warrior Level has beenmade about Level's life.
Churches are using itas an evangelistic tool
and according to the former gang leader,
lives are being transformed.
- When a lot of people come toChrist 'cause of my testimony
and I'm just honored to be used by God.
It's a privilege and ahonor to be used by Him.
You know, 'cause Hecould've chose anybody else.
I could've been one of thempeople that died early,
but I'm still here and I'm grateful.
- [Narrator] Charlene Aaron, CBN News,
Leisure City, Florida.