Joel Gonzalez’ “Pardon Me” Moment–A Life Of Drugs, Public Service And Redemption

Joel Gonzalez
Joel Gonzalez at a recent OIB party having fun with OIB poster BlackRockGuy.

Former City Councilman Joel “Speedy” Gonzalez shares this cathartic commentary about a life in the streets, selling drugs, reinventing himself and embracing redemption. He pukes up more about his life in this engaging narrative than the combined confessionals in the Diocese of Bridgeport. There’s a method to his madness, he says, bare it all and criticism from political enemies for the candidates he supports such as a Democratic school board challenge slate will not stick nearly as much. Speedy is not afraid to speak his mind or put words into action. This is, after all, a man who sliced off a good portion of his left index finger on the steps of the state capitol 20 years ago to bring attention to gun control. But he can also arouse pathos. Grab a cup of joe and check out Joel.

I was born on November 22, 1964 to Adelaida and Alejandro Gonzalez. At the time of my birth we lived in building 16 of the P.T. Barnum Housing complex. My father left my mother with 7 children and around 1970 we moved to the State Street area. My mother raised all us on Welfare and never married again or even had a boyfriend. Around 1972 my mother sent me and two older brothers to live with my dad in Puerto Rico. By 1977 I was back in Bridgeport and we lived at 1188 State Street, corner of Clinton Avenue. During the 5 years in Puerto Rico I managed to learn to read Spanish and had to learn English again. I was past the age of 12 when I started school at Elias Howe. Grade 7th to 8th was in a section of Bassick High School where I graduated in 1984.

Before graduation, I had taken a test at the Marines Recruiting Center in downtown Bridgeport. I passed the test but failed to put a lock on my bike outside and had it stolen while one of the Marines was keeping an eye on it. Weeks later, I had finished visiting my girlfriend in Marina Village and ran into my friend Israel Soto who lived in Marina Village too and we went to his house and ended up watching TV. I had fallen asleep when Israel woke me up and had this crazy idea of stealing a car from the parking lot to take me home. I objected and he keep begging and finally asked me to just stand in the distance and look out for him. I was next to a tree when he broke in the car and I don’t know how long he was there. Next thing I know I’m opening my eyes to the headlight of a police car and Israel running past me. I ran in a separate direction and was arrested. The officers wrote on the report that I was the one who ran out of the car. I report this to the U.S. Marine officer and they made it clear I was not getting accepted to the Marines. I guess Marines are not that good at keeping an eye out. The arrest # is 84-1809; on March 4, 1984; Attempt of Larceny 2nd.; J. Remele and Carofano, arresting officers. Let the record state the car was a Ford Pinto and I had to pay restitution.

In 1984 we were in a recession–I didn’t know what it was nor that it was in effect. My male High School teachers were my support and school was my escape. This Marine was to fight some other war. By the middle of 1985, all the guys I grew up with around the neighborhood had dropped out of school and had street-established reputations and had achieved some wealth in the drug trade. I ended up selling cocaine for Mariano Sanchez and became independent when I saw the unnecessary bad behavior of most members of the organization. Through a mutual friend I met Carlos Ramos who grew up on the street by choice when he ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He had no place to stay and I let him stay with me. He was the best and craziest car thief out there. He once stole a special edition RX7 from the inside showroom of a Westport Dealer. I found all this out after we had become friends. Carlos Ramos was the kind of guy who would piss on your shoes and make you believe it was raining seconds before you noticed. On many occasions he convinced me to give him a ride to boost a car and I’m not talking about charging the battery. He knew most of the car thieves and chop shop owners. One day, I bought a car with a blown motor and gave it to him and told him when I made more money on the street I’d buy the motor and get it running. Before I even blinked, he had changed the VIN number to an identical stolen car. He convinced me to register the car under my name and I did. As as a token of his appreciation, one day he came to me and showed me these metal tags with a set of car door locks and keys with a Motor Vehicle Title. He explained what it was and what it was for. He even committed to handling the whole process and all I had to do was pay his associate for the items. On April 15, 1986 I was instructed to bring the 1978 Buick to a body shop on lower Main Street so that Carlos’ associates could finish installing the dash cover–it was all that needed to be done. Suddenly, unmarked police cars pulled up to the shop and I was detained outside and brought inside the shop. I had a leather jacket on with drugs in my pockets. After a pat down, the officer didn’t find the drugs as it was a small amount. I was busted when I was caught throwing the bag in the garbage can. Arrest # 86-4674; by officer Perez; Possession with intent to sell. I received 18 months suspended after 2 years of probation less than two months after. The two vehicles were at the shop. One was registered in my name and the other had a plate belonging to me. They’re my cars, period. A little over three months later, the troopers came to visit and picked me up on a warrant for the two vehicles. On the same arrest number I was charged with two counts of Larceny on the first degree. Around this time, my girlfriend got pregnant. On May 30, 1987, I received a sentence of 5 years suspended after 1 year and 3 years of probation. On the early morning of June 20, 1987, a Correction Officer woke me up from my sleep and said, “Congratulations, your wife just had a baby boy.” I spent just three days behind bars and assigned to work with the building maintenance crew and moved to the work release building. I spent just about all morning and day out and about the compound working. By early 1988 I was out of the halfway house and sent home to start my probation. I finished the three years of probation by staying low key and doing my best not to get in trouble.

From 1990 to 1995, the streets of Bridgeport were a war zone. After the arrest of Mariano Sanchez and other major dealers, very violent groups and individuals started to rise. On February 10, 1990, I had another run-in with the law. I and two other friends were repairing a house directly across from where I live today that had caught fire. We were inside when Narcotics Agents came knocking on the front door and the rear team busted in. Detective Rafael Villegas had a shot gun when he came in. I had a mixed breed dog that looked mean but was very friendly and playful. Rafael Villegas stated that he was going to shoot the dog and aiming the shotgun at the dog and I reacted by moving in between him and the dog. They searched the place for about an hour including the basement which we had cleaned up completely the day before as there was water due to the fire. Just before they were all (like 20 cops) ready to leave Rafeal Villegas broke a light bulb in the basement and said, “I found something.” He came up with a white packet and he said it was cocaine and they arrested me on a drug charge and interfering with a search (protecting my dog). When I went to court and the lawyer showed me the police report, I read it and was shocked at the stupid attempt to frame me. The report stated that they found a glassine envelope (commonly used to package cocaine back in those days) with a white powdery substance that was tested and proved to be cocaine and that it weighed 7 grams. The problem was that it is impossible to fit 3 grams of any substance in a glassine envelope let alone 7 grams. The judge threw out that charge and I was fined $500 for saving my dog’s life. I also got the biggest slap in the face I’ve ever gotten in my life while I was handcuffed in the group from Rafael Villegas aka Berretta. That was not on the police report.

On May 16, 1992, I was arrested on a threatening charge listed under arrest number 92-5276. The case disposition was a nolle, a little over two months later. About a week before this arrest, I was shot after getting the better end of a fist fight across the street from where I’m typing this. I was hit once in the back from about 14 bullets that struck my Caddy. About three days after I got shot, a friend of the guys who shot me started following me to my home on Melrose Street in Black Rock. Yes, Speedy lived in Black Rock. One thing I didn’t go for is people thinking of bringing problems to my house. I parked my car in front of the liquor store near Wawa. From the inside of the liquor store I see the guy go around twice looking at my car. I had my Clint Eastwood in the trunk and retrieved it when he was doing his third trip around. When I came out the store he pulled up and lowered the window. From about six feet away, I put a hole on his car door and he drove away like a bat out of Black Rock. I jump back into my car and the battery was dead. I ran around the corner to my home on Melrose and hid the gun inside the toilet tank. I heard the familiar sound of a running police car and looked outside and noticed the Police car outside. I called the Police and reported a shooting and was told by the dispatcher that an officer was outside. I locked my doors leaving all my keys inside and went to meet the officer. At gun point I was ordered to the ground, searched and questioned. Carlos (the gangbanger) was in the back and pointed me out as the shooter. My story was the hole was done when a person who was a passenger in his car shot at me when I stepped out the store and may have missed me and hit the car. I told the officer that Carlos was an associate of the people who shot me days before (that was true). The gangbanging Latin King who ran out of Black Rock like a bat ran for help from an officer who was working a construction job less than a block away. I was arrested; no gun recovered and charged with threatening. Weeks after that incident, I was reading the newspaper and read that Carlos was arrested in an abandoned building in the East Side with a load of crack vials and charged with Possession with intent to sell. I notified my attorney who told me not to talk about this with anyone. We went to court for months and the witness never showed up when ordered. On July 31, 1992 (today is the 21-year anniversary), the case was nolled.

There are other charges for which I don’t have the details and I don’t list the motor vehicle related charges. I have provided the details of the most serious offenses. If I had had a mug shot, I would have included it here. I have never killed or participated in any act in which someone was killed. During all this time to the present, I have been shot; I had my cars (4 of them) burned; stolen and destroyed; one was stolen and never recovered. Carlos Ramos is the man arrested in 1994 when I whacked the digit at the Capitol. Since that day, he started changing his life around. He later told me the finger incident made him realize he was nowhere close to the tough guy he thought he was. He froze completely that day and learned he didn’t have the stomach to kill anyone, let alone handle what he experienced the minute I whacked that finger. He lives in Waterbury, is a devoted Christian and works for the State of Connecticut. About three years ago, Israel Soto was a passenger in a stolen car being chased by Bridgeport P.D. on I-95. The vehicle got off the Fairfield Avenue exit and the driver stopped to let the two passengers out of the car. His older brother told me as soon as Israel got out of the car, he was knocked to the ground with a police cruiser. A number of police officers started to assault Israel on the ground. He spent a long time in a coma and is currently paralyzed due to the severe beating he received. That could have been me. I could have applied for and gotten a pardon a very long time ago. I have chosen not to do so because my past–the good, the bad and the ugly–is what has shaped me into the person I am today.

I know many of you are wondering why I’m being so open about my past. Ever since I decided to get involved in activism and politics, the powers that be have been using my past as a reason to block any attempt of giving back to my community. My past wasn’t something to be overly concerned about after I forced my way in to become a Democratic Town Committee member and on to getting elected to the City Council. Since 2008 I’ve received direct and implied indications if I kept on with my criticism and opposition to the Democratic Party, they would, “expose me for what I am and was.” They are entitled to their perception and opinion of me and are free to judge me. In 2011, Mary-Jane Foster decided to run for mayor of Bridgeport and by my own free will, I decided to support her in any way I could. I didn’t want to get on her ballot when asked for fear of what I knew would happen. I sat down with Mary-Jane Foster in my home and made her aware of my past and the situation I was in. She was receptive to it all and stated she admired me more than ever and stated if the party had no issues back then when I was on their side, she would welcome me on her team. When the YouTube video titled Mary-Jane Foster’s establishment came out, I wasn’t surprised. They could have portrayed me in a worse way. The small group of decision makers in the Bridgeport Democratic Party is again waiting for me to align myself with anyone else or run individually. I decided not to join the challenge slate for BOE due to the threat which I personally am not afraid to face, but I had to consider the potential damage to those whom I support and align myself with–their judgement will be put into question. I took out the petitions to challenge the endorse candidates for BOE as part of my plan to find out what strategy the enemy was plotting. I know if I qualify, I would be hurting the challenge slate more than anyone else. If I won the primary or support any challengers, “the plan” of the enemy would still be viable. I can’t allow this to continue any longer and needed let it all out. Instead of applying for a pardon, I would like for all OIB readers and posters to let me know if you will pardon me. Please do start your comment with “you’re pardoned” and make a comment or observation. You are free to attack me like some have done to Lennie Grimaldi, Joe Ganim, Ernest Newton, or anyone else. I have faced evil many times in my 48 years. Most of them attacked with guns, knives or the good old fist. The pen is mightier than the sword and there are many out there with the power, money, and authority in possession of the mighty pen. They use it as they please but fail to realize the use of the mighty pen is a two-way street. The technology of today gives the masses a mighty pen in the form of access to the Internet like this blog. Use your pen and strike me with it any way you wish. I’m a Marine.

Thank you,

Joel Gonzalez



  1. Let’s put music to it, it has all the makings of a good old-fashioned rice and beans western. Joel if it helps at all “you’re pardoned,” not sure if leaving the actual names is a good idea.

    1. Lennie Grimaldi wrote the book Chased and he wrote lots of names. I don’t have the time right now, but I’ll drop one well-known name and the facts about the incident when I have the time. It’s one the funniest things that happened to me you won’t find in Lennie’s book. Stay tuned.

  2. Joel, your life could have been very different had you joined the Marines. But sometimes God has another plan for us and we don’t see it right away. You are a good person, you take care of your family and you work hard for an employer who doesn’t appreciate you. You are a good example of how someone who grew up on the mean streets has turned his life around. I admire your strength and courage.

    1. Thank you, Bridgeport Girl. Looking back at all the wars and conflicts the U.S. Marines have fought, I don’t think I would have made it home alive. If I would go between a shotgun and my dog, I know what I would have done for a fellow Marine. I thing I forgot to mention in my piece my first born and only son Joel Alexander Gonzalez. He passed away going to work on January 23, 2007. His Myspace tag read, “Life is full of shit, you gotta watch your step.” He carried both my and my father’s name. He loved reading the newspaper and seeing my name in it and used to say I was crazy to stand up to the mayor. I will never shame or stain his name by committing an illegal act or an act of unnecessary violence. Doing that would be the craziest, most stupid thing I could do.

  3. Joel,
    You’ve got the courage of a Marine, that’s for sure.

    My sympathies to you for the tragic car accident that took your son. My mom lost her brother when he was 21 … terrible stuff.

    Some people may have thought along the way you, Joel, didn’t have a prayer. If so, they were wrong. You now have many prayers … and, it seems, are making a public prayer here in a way.

    “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”–St. John Vianney.

    We all have a mission in this life and it appears you are living yours. Best wishes to you in all you do.

    1. Hector A. Diaz, did you read the entire piece? Maybe you missed this part, “… Through a mutual friend I met Carlos Ramos who grew up on the street by choice when he ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He had no place to stay and I let him stay with me. He was the best and craziest car thief out there. He once stole a special edition RX7 from the inside showroom of a Westport Dealer. I found all this out after we had become friends …”

      Think about this, had it not been for Carlos Ramos’ experience during the 1994 finger incident, he may have never changed his ways. Mimi Dragone would have been his candy store if he was still up to his mischief. Imagine all the “rice and beans” Carlos Ramos would have been taking from your table and that of your boss. Heck, Mimi Dragone should consider giving me a car in appreciation for that.

      1. Joel, I appreciate you can feel you in some way have allowed me the opportunity to make some dollars by curbing your boys’ desires to take vehicles. The truth is we are heavily insured probably to the point where we would probably make more money off a vehicle that was stolen than we would from one that is purchased. I’m not sure if you know but MiMi Dragone has been voted the best place to purchase a used vehicle in Fairfield County the past two years in a row, so I would expect your consideration in any future vehicle purchases :)!

          1. Independent Dealers Magazine has us rated 35th nationally and first in Connecticut, also. It would be my pleasure to assist in getting you a vehicle that suits your needs also, yahooy.

  4. *** The CT FDA dept has reported a few cases of grape Arizona Iced Tea have been found to be tainted with what tested as long-lost “Grateful Dead LSD” from the late ’60s. Known to make users write long, Lord of the Rings and John Wayne Semper-Fi type stories while under the influence! The consumer protection agency is planning a “short investigation” once they come down from their Arizona trip. (wink) *** KEEPING IT REAL, NO? ***

  5. Joel,
    Quite a story summary, Joel! Pardoned? I think you have written your own, and ultimately that is more important than what the community says.
    And you have stayed in the community and called things the way you see them and introduced yourself to new situations, and listened to the stories of others, and attempted to represent important ideas by putting yourself (or part of you anyway) on the line. In a certain way, “time has told” in your life. Keep playing it that way, my friend. As for our community, time will tell.


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