NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodCalifornia City


Former gang member, retired LAPD officer cleaning up Cal City

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jun 04, 2024

CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KERO) — Tomas Estarella, a former gang member, and John Fischer, a retired LAPD officer, have teamed up to clean up Cal City. They say graffiti in their town is unacceptable.

  • John Fischer, a longtime California City resident, says he's trying to gain donations for supplies to paint over graffiti in Cal City.
  • Tomas Estarella says he enjoys helping clean the town because it gets him out of the house.
  • Fischer and Estarella painted over graffiti at Central Park and plan to wipe the damage away from at least 10 other areas in town.


California City workers have come here to Central Park to clean off the graffiti more than once over the past couple of months. Volunteers are now pitching in to wipe away the damage.

I'm Steve Virgen, your neighborhood reporter...

Volunteer painters are now all over town. It's their way of saying: This is not acceptable in our community.

"I can imagine what people are seeing when they're driving by … 'He's doing graffiti on the wall.' Callin' the cops. I'm waiting for the cops. I'm thinking: Come on over and see what I'm doing, you know. Like, help me out if anything. Grab a can right there."

Tomas Estarella is a former gang member who now lives in California City.

He tells me that some people think he's creating graffiti around town when they see him... instead of cleaning it up!

He recently teamed up with John Fischer, a former LAPD officer, to voluntarily beautify sections that have been vandalized.

"This is my community and I don't want graffiti in my community. I don't want people coming into my town thinking that we're ghetto. This is a nice place to live and I'd like to keep it that way," said Fischer, a longtime California City resident.

Fischer and Tomas met again at Central Park to cover the graffiti that had been on the handball courts. There were also painted marks on a mural. In addition, vandalism occurred at the community garden and Inspiration Walk. Marilyn Giovannetti said children and people who frequent the area were very upset.

"This whole area is a real community effort. A lot of people involved. A lot of people care about it," said Giovannetti, the Desert Rose Garden Club president.

Fischer met Tomas at a city council meeting, where Fisher brought awareness to the graffiti issue in Cal City.

He says he's looking into collecting donations for cleaning supplies.

Tomas says he enjoys helping because it gets him out of the house.

"You know, doing this, to me, it's for others to see a person like me helping out. I think it would be, Lord willing, inspirational for others to do the same thing. Try to, if you see something, say something type thing," Tomas said.

If you see someone vandalizing or tagging an area in your community, call the police. In Cal City, you can call (760) 373-8606.

I'm Steve Virgen, your neighborhood reporter.

Stay in Touch with Us Anytime, Anywhere: