The untold story of the man who tried to kill Chalino Sanchez

Edward Alvarado Gallegos solid his thoughts again three many years, to the evening in 1992 that he tried to kill a legend.

After clambering drunkenly onto the stage of a nightclub, he stood nose to nose with the singer Chalino Sanchez. Each males had traveled related paths. Like Chalino, Gallegos was a young person when he left his residence state of Sinaloa, the place his household labored the fields in poverty. Gallegos was in search of “the American dream, to earn cash,” he would say many years later. It didn’t end up that means.

Chalino discovered fame and fortune within the dance halls of southeastern Los Angeles County, singing corridos — ballads that chronicled the lives of males who made a dwelling sending medicine, cash and folks throughout the U.S.-Mexican border. Gallegos was broke, hooked on heroin, and shedding his marriage when he invited himself onstage on the Plaza Los Arcos in Coachella.

Gallegos pointed a gun at Chalino’s chest and pulled the set off 4 instances. Chalino drew his personal gun and fired again. Pandemonium erupted. A younger man, dancing together with his spouse, was fatally wounded within the crossfire.

Chalino eluded loss of life that evening, however it was solely a reprieve. 4 months later, his physique was discovered dumped in a canal in Sinaloa. His homicide, which has by no means been solved, solid the sooner taking pictures in a brand new mild: Was that chaotic evening in Coachella the handiwork of a drunken patron, or was Gallegos a employed gun for some trafficker Chalino had angered?

Gallegos was sentenced to twenty years to life, however it wasn’t till 2012, when he was first up for parole, that he spoke concerning the evening he tried to kill Chalino. At that listening to and subsequent ones in 2017 and 2022, reported right here for the primary time, Gallegos recounted his life main as much as the shootout at Plaza Los Arcos and instructed two contradicting tales of why he shot the singer.

After 31 years behind bars, Gallegos, 64, was launched from jail on Could 9, in response to a spokeswoman for the California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He confronted deportation to Mexico, however his present whereabouts are unknown and neither he nor his household may very well be reached for remark.

Chalino’s legend has solely grown with the passage of time. The evening at Plaza Los Arcos made him often known as a person who didn’t simply sing of gunfights however gained them. His homicide stays an everlasting thriller. The theories of who needed him useless, and for what causes, are too many to rely.

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If Chalino’s followers believed Gallegos might supply some clue as to who finally had the singer killed, there are none within the transcripts of his parole hearings, which increase as many questions as they reply. Like a lot of Chalino’s life, the story Gallegos instructed of that evening has modified over time.

“So we’re left questioning,” a prosecutor remarked, “what’s the reality?”

Gallegos was born to a poor household of eight kids, he instructed the parole board. He mentioned his household owned a plot of land in Navolato, about 20 miles west of Culiacán, the Sinaloan capital.

Starting within the third grade, Gallegos would spend the primary half of the day at school and the remaining working together with his mother and father within the fields, he mentioned. He dropped out within the sixth grade to work full-time. Gallegos described his household as “dysfunctional,” recalling a childhood “with lots harm, with quite a lot of ache.”

“When you’ll be able to’t do something,” he mentioned, “you’re feeling offended and resentful and you are feeling — really feel powerless.”

At 14, Gallegos mentioned, he adopted his older brothers to the Coachella Valley. He picked crops and later labored as a mechanic in Indio, fixing junked automobiles and promoting them, he mentioned. He was deported a number of instances however by no means waited various days earlier than returning illegally to america, a parole commissioner mentioned.

By 17, Gallegos was consuming two six-packs of beer a day, beginning a spiral of habit that he blamed for the fraying of his marriage, the shootout with Chalino, and the lack of his freedom. He drank, he mentioned, to overlook he didn’t find the money for to pay his payments.

“Everybody out on the streets has issues,” he instructed the board in 2012. “And we begin consuming to keep away from the day by day issues. However the subsequent day, the issues are nonetheless there. Nothing will get resolved.”

After 4 years of slugging beer and tequila, “your physique asks for one thing stronger,” he mentioned. He began snorting heroin. Earlier than lengthy, he was injecting it.

A father of two, Gallegos spent the whole lot he earned on booze and heroin, he mentioned. His marriage to a girl he’d met as a young person was falling aside. She would divorce him after he went to jail, he mentioned.

On the day he shot Chalino, Gallegos mentioned, he began the morning with a beer, then went to a cockfighting match. By the point he acquired to Plaza Los Arcos that evening, he had drunk 30 beers and shot heroin, he mentioned. He was carrying a pistol he’d purchased from a “paisa” who had gone again to Mexico, he instructed the board.

It was his first time seeing Chalino carry out. “I had solely heard and listened to his music,” he mentioned, “as a result of he sings corridos.”

Gallegos could not have recognized it, however Chalino had taken an analogous path to america. Raised on a small Sinaloan rancho, Chalino — born Rosalino Sanchez — crossed the border in 1977, 4 years after Gallegos. He too discovered work within the fields of the Coachella Valley.

Chalino started promoting small quantities of marijuana and cocaine and serving to his brother, Armando, smuggle folks throughout the border, Sam Quinones wrote for the L.A. Weekly in 1998. After Armando was shot to loss of life in a Tijuana resort, Chalino wrote his first corrido in his brother’s reminiscence.

By the point he took the stage at Plaza Los Arcos, Chalino had discovered an viewers: drug traffickers who paid him — typically in money, typically with a watch or a pistol — to hint the arcs of their brief lives in track. His music additionally appealed to legions of Southern California youngsters who weren’t from the narco world however discovered themselves enthralled by his tales of gunfights, betrayals and vendettas.

A cowboy hat perched on his head, a handgun most of the time tucked in his waistband, Chalino offered out golf equipment like El Parral in Southgate and El Farrallon in Lynwood. That evening in Coachella, 400 folks had crowded into Plaza Los Arcos. Someplace within the crowd was Gallegos, who would supply to the parole board two very completely different accounts of his actions that evening.

At his first listening to in 2012, Gallegos mentioned he merely needed at hand Chalino his gun so he might hearth it onstage as he sang, “identical to they do in Mexico.”

“However what occurred was that the singer acquired scared,” he mentioned, “and I didn’t know that he had a gun additionally.” Gallegos claimed he and Chalino started taking pictures on the identical time.

Rene Carranza, 20, had been dancing together with his 18-year-old spouse when a bullet pierced an artery in his thigh. Carranza, father to a 2-month-old child, bled to loss of life. Six others, together with Carranza’s spouse, have been shot however survived.

“I really feel dangerous for what I did,” Gallegos instructed the board in 2012, “however you’ll be able to’t repair something by feeling like that.”

5 years later and once more in 2022, Gallegos instructed a distinct story. Earlier than taking the stage, Gallegos mentioned, Chalino handed by his desk. He requested the singer to carry out a selected track and “ship some greetings to some folks whom I knew from one other city.” Chalino agreed, Gallegos instructed the board.

However because the evening wore on and the track Gallegos had needed to listen to wasn’t performed, “I began feeling irate,” he mentioned. “As a result of, you recognize, the factor is that I used to be feeling ignored.”

After climbing onstage, Gallegos mentioned he fired 4 photographs at Chalino from about three ft away. The singer drew his personal gun and fired as soon as at Gallegos. It jammed, and Chalino threw the gun at Gallegos’ face, a parole commissioner mentioned.

Gallegos was dragged offstage and wrestled to the bottom. Somebody within the crowd took the gun from him and shot him within the mouth.

Learn extra: A younger soldier, a love triangle and a homicide prosecution with no physique

Parole commissioners and prosecutors from the Riverside County District Lawyer’s workplace mentioned they didn’t fully consider both story.

“Eight folks have been shot as a result of this inmate says the singer didn’t play a track he needed,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Terri Wyatt mentioned in 2022. “That’s ridiculous, mindless, violent, and I don’t assume we’re getting on the precise motive right here.”

Noting that Chalino was murdered 4 months later, Commissioner William Muniz requested Gallegos if he went to Plaza Los Arcos aspiring to kill him.

“No, I didn’t even know who he was,” Gallegos mentioned, contradicting his earlier assertion that he knew of Chalino however had by no means seen him carry out. “I used to be simply going to take heed to him, to sing, however I — I didn’t know him.”

In contrast to at his listening to a decade earlier, Gallegos admitted in 2022 that he tried to homicide Chalino and mentioned he was answerable for the loss of life of Carranza, whether or not he fired the shot that killed him or not. “Despite the fact that it took me so lengthy,” he mentioned, “I now perceive that I’ve an ethical duty to be accountable of my crime.”

In weighing whether or not to grant Gallegos parole, the board thought of not solely his crimes however his document in jail. Gallegos had been written up for smoking tobacco, possessing stitching needles and nails, and damaging state-issued clothes, in response to his parole transcripts.

However the board famous he hadn’t been disciplined since 2017 and seemed favorably on his work document, which included jobs as a printer, porter, landscaper and eating room attendant. Gallegos mentioned he’d been sober since his arrest in 1992, and the board noticed no proof to disprove that.

“You clearly have demonstrated change,” Muniz instructed him.

Mary Xjimenez, a spokeswoman for the state corrections division, declined to say whether or not Gallegos was turned over to immigration authorities for deportation after he was launched in Could. Gallegos instructed the board he needed to return to Sinaloa, the place his father nonetheless lived on their household’s plot of land.

If deported, he swore by no means to return again.

“A human being that has spent 20, 30 years in jail in america,” he mentioned, “the one factor that individual desires is to return to his or her nation and spend the final years of their life with their household. As a result of there’s nothing right here for me however jail, I — I simply need to go.”

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This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Occasions.

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