Program offers free tattoo removal for former gang members

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-29 09:07:33-04

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) -- A new program is helping former gang members get jobs. The program doesn't offer job training - it offers a reshaping of their appearance. A process that can sometimes, be painful.

The tattoos on Angelo Pamintuan's face and hand were meant to be permanent.

"I felt like the man, I felt cool, I felt masculine," the former gang member said. "I felt macho, I felt like I was tough."

When asked if he ever thought he would want them removed, Pamintuan said, "At the time I didn't see past that day. I was super myopic about it, short sighted, not thinking about consequences."

Pamintuan was sentenced to 13 years in prison for assault. But after he got out early, his outlook on life changed.

"When I look in the mirror, I will go over this, remember, regret … But also be thankful for what it's brought me to now," he said.

Decisions that brought him to Doctor James Schultz.

With a grant secured by Supervisor Bill Horn, the doctor is performing free tattoo removal procedures for ex-gang members.

10News reporter Matt Boone was with Pamintuan on his first visit. After the procedure, the tattoo above his eyebrow was visibly lighter, though a bit swollen.

"I was trying to represent something in the past with it," he said. "And I'm trying to represent something now by getting it removed. That's about progress, rehabilitation, and redemption."

He'll have to go back six more times to have his tattoos fully removed. Even with the tattoos gone, he says, that part of him will never be erased. 

"I don't think progress can truly be made by totally eradicating your past," he said. "If you can't learn from your past, you can't make real progress."