There is a yin and a yang to Jordan Buna.
Both were on full display Thursday night at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary school.
Clean cut and well dressed, Buna introduced himself to a room full of about 30 parents, his two full sleeves of tattoos peeking out from under his charcoal V-neck sweater.
Soft-spoken, Buna comes across as compassionate and approachable, someone you would enjoy chatting with over a cup of coffee. But you better believe that he’s not somebody you would want to mess with.
Buna is a former gang member. He travels across the province with Const. Jordan McLellan (shown at left) of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit B.C., sharing his life story as part of the CFSEU-BC End Gang Life program.
CLICK HERE for more information on End Gang Life.
Their goal is simple – dispel the romantic notions of gang life and expose its harsh realities. Perhaps nothing did that more than Buna’s story about jailhouse butter.
“You haven’t heard anybody scream until you’ve heard somebody scream with a face full of boiling butter,” he said after describing how inmates at a pretrial centre would boil butter and sugar in rice cookers to throw in the face of their jailhouse enemies.
“Third degree burns. Scarred for the rest of your life –all because of the choices you made when you were 18, 19 years old.”
For most of Buna’s hour-long presentation, you could hear a pin drop. Parents sat motionless, hanging onto his every word as he described his descent from star student and athlete to cruel and violent teenager in a few short years.
“What turned a cute kid into that?” he asked as he pointed to his gritty police mugshot on the screen. “Choices.”
Indeed, “choices” was Buna’s theme, as he detailed key moments in his life that were marred by bad decisions.
Like when he chose to stop taking his ADHD meds in high school. Or when he chose to participate in a huge fight at the back of his school that lead to one of his friends being run over and killed.
“I still remember what that scream sounded like. I still remember that big streak of blood. You could smell it in the air. It smelled like pennies.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
ABOVE: Jordan Buna speaks to students during a recent End Gang Life presentation.
Although his friend’s death smartened him up for a while– he went back on his medication, made the honour roll and was accepted into college – poor choices continued to dog him in his late teens.
Sadly, a summer of partying lead him to drop out of college after only two semesters and when he applied to the Canadian Forces, viewing it as “his ticket out,” it was the rejection letter that finally sent him over the edge.
“I gave up,” he said.
He started hanging around gang members and began to “idolize” them. He slowly gained their trust and was hired as a “dial-a-doper.”
Feeling there was nothing left for him in society, Buna thrived in the gang culture and despite some ugly situations – like when an addict robbed him at needlepoint – he truly felt like he belonged.
Soon, he had his own grow-op and was selling marijuana all across the country.
But it all came crashing down. After a few busts, he found himself in jail, feeling betrayed. His “brothers” were nowhere to be found and he was forced to face the harsh realities of gang life all alone.
He was released in 2008 and decided once and for all it was time to turn his life around.
Today, he has one more semester until he has his BA in criminology – he already has his Associate of Arts Degree in psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
His life is now one of freedom, love, travel and education. Why?
“I had it in me the whole time.”
GANG PREVENTION: What can parents do?
- Help your kids choose good friends
- Build strong family ties by making family events fun, like regular family dinners, outings, watching movies and playing games with them
- Participate in parent-teacher meetings and events at your kids’ schools
- Take interest in your kids’ homework and make sure they complete it
- Encourage your kids to participate in school activities and do volunteer work in the community. Do the same yourself.
- Have open communication with your kids so they feel comfortable sharing with you their concerns and worries.
- Keep an eye on your kids’ choice of movies, videos and internet browsing habits
- If you are worried that your kids may be involved in antisocial and/or self-destructive behaviour, remember that it can be changed
- Avoid ‘tough love’ such as cutting them off or forbidding them from going out. Instead, stay involved and let your kids understand that making mistakes and wrong choices are part of learning and that you will always help them correct their mistakes
- When you are worried about your kids’ well-being and need some help, talk to their school teacher, counsellor, or even a police officer. An earlier check and prevention will help your kids stay on track and avoid getting into a dangerous life of crime, violence and gangs.
– Source: CFSEU-BC’s ‘Understanding Youth and Gangs’ pamphlet