The Nation: PORTRAIT OF A GANG LEADER

His small, round badge of courage is on his back: the puckered scar left by a bullet wound. He is proud of the scar, and prouder still that he can shrug it off as an accepted part of his lifestyle. "Almost everybody's been shot," smiles the 19-year-old black youth known as "Bartender," a leader of one of the street gangs that flourish in the Los Angeles area.

Bartender is known as Lyle Joseph Thomas on police records and his dossier is full. He has been arrested eleven times on charges that include assault on...

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