Gangsters in Bacliff

The unincorporated town is up to its elbows in youth gangs, poverty and crime

And so Miller moved to Dickinson in 2003, and today spends more of his time in the bars of San Leon.

They say that the toothbrush was invented in Bacliff. If it had been invented anywhere else, it would have been called the ­teethbrush.

— Local joke

Jack Nelson, right, with a neighbor boy, says Bacliff is plagued more by drugs than by gangs.
Mar' Money
Jack Nelson, right, with a neighbor boy, says Bacliff is plagued more by drugs than by gangs.
Galveston County Sheriff's Deputy Brent Cooley isn't admired by everyone.
Daniel Kramer
Galveston County Sheriff's Deputy Brent Cooley isn't admired by everyone.

Local residents will tell you that Bacliff's problems have worsened in the last ten years. Husband and wife Jack and Wendy Nelson were interviewed in front of their trailer, a block or two from 4th Street's HQ.

"I grew up here, and I used to be able to ride my bicycle all over town and not worry about anything" says Wendy Nelson. "Now the kids won't get out of the road, the drugs are taking over, the gangs are taking over. If my kid goes around the corner out of my sight, I make him come back home."

Jack Nelson says that his carpentry tools have been stolen five times, and that Bacliff's problems stem more from drugs — specifically crack and meth — than gangs per se. "We don't have drive-bys or anything like that. It's just a bunch of bored kids looking for easy money. I bet you I could walk down this street right now and find two drug dealers and 15 people that are under the influence. It's bad."

People are fighting back. According to Miller, September 11, 2004, was a historic day for Bacliff and San Leon. A town hall meeting was held in which the citizenry demanded local officials clean up the town.

But, they added, don't go overboard: Miller said that many people in the town, himself included, want to be allowed to drink, smoke weed and gamble with abandon, but they want the line drawn at crack and meth.

"I actually got up and said, 'These people' — meaning the police — 'have known me all my life. They know that I would never sell drugs, but they also know that I have been known to take a toke. I just don't see a problem with people recreationally having a few drinks or a couple tokes off a joint, but there's a serious problem with these crackheads because they are a crime wave.'"

The gangbangers say that Bacliff has always had its crackheads, and that all they did was provide a service in stopping them from having to travel to the ghetto in Dickinson to score. That is exactly the problem, Miller believes. "Most of the crackheads don't have cars," Miller reasons. "If you run the dealers out of town, the crackheads won't live here. They will move to League City or Houston or Dickinson or somewhere where they can get their dope."

Miller says that two officers in the Galveston County Sheriff's Office — Major Ray Tuttoilmondo and a young deputy named Brent Cooley — grasped best what the townspeople were saying. "Cooley really made it his business to do what the people asked," Miller says. "That's why even the people he arrests have a grudging respect for the man. He's fair, and he's doing what the public wants."

Neither cop would talk to the Houston Press for this story — Cooley referred all inquiries to Tuttoilmondo, who in turn passed any questions off to the United States Attorney's Office. That office declined comment, saying the crack, cocaine and meth cases against the alleged gangsters has yet to come to trial.

Gang members weren't talking either. The "stop snitchin'" ethos is strong in Bacliff. Indeed, a friend and I got in a very sketchy situation with some admitted Mexican-American gang members in a bar we had been warned not to go to, both because we were asking too many questions and because I stupidly wore the wrong T-shirt. "Get your Alamo T-shirt-wearing ass the fuck out of this bar," advised a stocky, thirtysomething ex-con with a beard and long hair. Even the barmaid taunted us as we literally backed ourselves out the door.

But the town is airing much of its dirty laundry on a Topix messageboard ( In a remarkable thread of more than 150 posts and counting, Deputy Cooley emerged as a legend of Bacliff's 'hood.

Some called him a hero, while others made allegations of corruption of every sort imaginable. Poster after poster came on and defended the 4th Street Players as good men just doing what had to be done to feed their families, and calling out the police for all manner of misdeeds. Someone purporting to be Cooley himself responded a couple of times at length, saying that the people who were arrested were not charged with being bad people or bad fathers or mothers, that people were confusing harassment with enforcement, and denying the corruption allegations.

"You don't like me because I DO MY JOB!" the post continued. "People say drugs is a 'VICTIMLESS' crime. Tell that to all the mothers and fathers I have talked to in Bacliff and San Leon over the years who have cried and cried to me over and over again about how much they love their children but have been robbed, assaulted and victimized by their own kids for the last time — all because of the drugs that are so 'HARMLESS'!"

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This is a stero type i have threw red shoes over power lines also blue and im 13 so this is sorda a insult and to think that these people just do it to get high no some do but sime also do it bc they need to take care of there kids si b4 u start critizing a person or a town check yours or it and there was alot if bs added to this so please stop the judgmental comments and be realistic thanks and byee.!


There is good and bad here in Bacliff. There are many good people here that will go out of there way to help others. There is good and bad in every place in the world. And there is poverty in all parts of the world. There are many people here that are not poverty. In this column about Bacliff it is making our little town sound like the worst place ever to live, not so. It has its problems like every place else does. There are some really nice homes in Bacliff, and there not all next  to the shore lines. You don't have to be rich to have a nice home.

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