Perhaps few know the County gang problems better than Luis Cardona.
Twenty-six years ago, the now Youth Street Outreach coordinator for Montgomery County was lying down in a parking lot covered in his own blood with five bullet wounds in the chest, back and arms, where he prayed to God for forgiveness.
Cardona said doctors at District of Columbia General Hospital told him it was a “miracle” he survived. The shooting was a target assignation for Cardona, who at the time was a member of the Latin Kings gang, and he made the mistake of beating up a rival gang member after a night of drinking.
“Gang life is a long-term way of committing suicide,” Cardona said.
It was not the first time Cardona had been shot, and was one in a series of events that led to Cardona’s gradual shift away from gang life. Cardona, 50, survived and made his way out of gang life to become one of Montgomery County’s leading voices for change. Cardona, a former gang member, now spends trying to steer kids from going down the path he took when he was young.