Reformed skinhead who served time in Arizona helps others break free from hate – AZFamily

Posted: December 17, 2019 at 2:51 am

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -On June 17, 2015, in South Carolina, Dylann Roof walked into a black church, opened fire, killing nine innocent people during worship. He was convicted of 33 hate crimes.

[WATCH:Hope Dealer: Former skinhead making impact inArizona]

A rise of white nationalism is being felt just about everywhere, including Arizona.

[APP USERS:See infographic of rise in hate crimes in Arizona]

A menorah was turned into a swastika in Scottsdale. Offensive graffiti can be found all over the Valley, like on a wall in Mesa.

[READ MORE:Offensive, racist graffiti in Mesa community has residents outraged]

There's only one way to understand why white supremacy is making a comeback. So, we sat down and talked with the now-former second-highest-ranking skinhead in America, Garrett Deetz.

[RELATED:Bomb threats at Jewish centers across country, creates heightened awareness in AZ (Feb. 21, 2017)]

I hated everybody," Deetz said, reflecting back at his life.

Deetz broke free from the skinheads a few years ago. But for decades, he took pleasure in hurting people, terrorizing anyone who didn't look like him.

Would you describe yourself as a racist? journalist Brandon Lee asked.

"Absolutely. My family wasn't, but I was," Deetz said.

Deetz grew up in a military family, moving from base to base. His parents were strict and grew concerned when he started to act out. Strict family. Extension cords. You'd get whooped. You know that's just how it was back in those days. I got whooped a lot," said Deetz.

[RELATED:Man with Aryan Brotherhood ties arrested for swastika graffiti tags in Scottsdale]

The whoopings didn't work. At just 10 years old, Deetz was already abusing cocaine. "I was up on the roof of the house on the very tip of the roof of the house, holding a teddy bear screaming for my parents because I was just gone," said Deetz.

At 14, Deetzs troubles escalated. He began hanging out with gangs.

"What led you to even dabble with gangs at the age of 14?" Lee asked.

"I think I wasn't getting the attention from home that I wanted. It's not that they didn't give me attention; they just didn't give me the attention that I wanted," said Deetz.

By 17, Deetz was fully entrenched into the skinheads. "The drugs and alcohol, it wasn't that. I needed something more. I needed that element of excitement. That element of fear," says Deetz.

Deetz terrorized the Valley, especially in the late 90s, when he escaped from an Arizona jail. A manhunt ensued. Days later, Deetz was back behind bars.

"Where did you make that wrong turn? Would you describe your parents as racist?" asked Lee.

"No," said Deetz.

Would you describe your parents as having hate in their heart?" asked Lee.

Absolutely not," said Deetz.

So, where did you find that hate in your heart?" asked Lee.

Through them, the gangs. I hated everybody. Definitely, if you were gay, I'm coming after you," said Deetz.

Deetz has spent half his life in lockup, roughly two decades in prison for violent crimes. He spent time in "the hole" for trying to kill another inmate. At one of the darkest moments of his life, Deetz found the light. His life suddenly and unexpectedly changed from the unlikeliest of people: his cellmate.

"When we locked down that night and I'm laying (sic) in my bed and this dude he asks me again, 'Hey brother, would you like to pray with me?' I remember jumping off the bed, getting in his face, pulling my hand back, ready to hit him, and I was like, 'Yeah.' And I can tell you to this day, that I can never explain how that happened, and I started praying with this guy," said Deetz.

Deetz got sober behind bars. He made a promise to himself that he would break free from the skinheads when he was released. Instead of dealing drugs, he's now dealing hope to rooms packed with recovering addicts at 12-step meetings.

His message of faith strikes at the heart of the people in the audience. When you start getting that sobriety in your life, and you start getting those people in your life and are pushing you to get better man, like the gates of heaven, just go, 'Ahhhhh!' said Deetz.

How have you made amends to all of the people you've hurt? asked Lee.

I can't. In sobriety, we also have something called living amends. It's for people we can't make amends to. I got a lot of living amends, you know what I mean?" said Deetz.

Part of Deetzs living amends is sharing a message of hope to gang bangers and addicts behind bars. At least once a month, Deetz goes to Arizona jails and prisons to speak to other skinheads about breaking free to create a new life.

"My life is filled with light, not darkness, light. I see everyone beautiful. I see the world as beautiful. I want to help everyone I can," said Deetz.

You're clearly reformed. You're out of the gangs. You are covered in skinhead ink," said Lee.

Yea. I surely am," said Deetz.

You have swastikas all over your body. Why haven't you gotten those tatts removed?" asked Lee.

Because that's part of my testimony. That's my way of letting people see that change is possible," said Deetz.

Deetz has teamed up with an Arizona nonprofit Gold Canyon Heart and Home. Their mission is to help guys break away from gangs and break free from the cycle of drug abuse.

Joe Chiappetta, Jr. is one of the directors of the nonprofit. Just the effect it has on the guys to see us coming back to see Garrett coming back. It's amazing. It gives them that hope. It gives them a belief that there's something better," Chiappetta said.

Deetz credits the nonprofit for showing him a path forward to recovery. I lived my life taking from people and hurting people. And now I get to see this beautiful life of what can come from helping people. It's amazing," said Deetz.

Deetz is brutally honest about his past. He owns up to all the hurt and pain he's caused. He was such a high-profile gangster, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio even spoke at his sentencing as Deetz was facing 20 years to life.

When Deetz speaks, his message is having an impact. A person at the 12-step meeting we attended with Deetz wanted to share with us how proud she is of the man Deetz has become. She asked to remain anonymous. Its totally different from the person I first met to today. He's welcoming today. He's got a smile on his face today. No matter what he was before, that's not who he is today. People can change and Garrett has in so many ways," said Deetz.

As we were wrapping up our interview, Deetz told us why hes coming out so publicly about his past. "I'm going to continue living my life every day trying to help out any and every individual I can: white, black, brown, whatever color you are. Gay, lesbian, or whatever you are, it doesn't matter to me anymore. What matters to me now is making this world a better freaking place," said Deetz.

Chiappetta has set up a GoFundMe page help pay for a self help book. If you would like to help out, click here.

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Reformed skinhead who served time in Arizona helps others break free from hate - AZFamily

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December 17th, 2019 at 2:51 am

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