Once a member of the Latin Kings gang, Andy “Rebirth” Pellerano found his salvation after serving a lengthy prison sentence and surviving a near-fatal overdose, leading him to embrace Christianity.

“It was just the wrong influences, listening to the wrong voices, just gravitating to the wrong things and being out there,” the Latin Kings gang member–turned–Christian minister told “Jesse Watters Primetime” on Wednesday. 

In addition to his ministry, Pellerano is a Christian hip-hop artist who has been nominated twice for the Nola Gospel Award and won the title Nola Gospel Rap Artist of the Year in 2018.

“I was around 14, 15 years old and I let five grown men jump me so I could be their friend, as I like to put it,” Pellerano explained. “So what would I have to do to keep that friendship? And it led to a first-degree attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated criminal damage. It was gang-related. I was 16, I made 17. I was charged as an adult.”

Pellerano disclosed that his gang name was “Paco the Pope of the Streets.” 

“They used to call me Paco. When I basically got out of the gang — when I went to prison — we started an outlaw King Blood Nation, where we joined the Latin Kings with the Bloods and I was holding the flag in that prison. I was the president and they called me Paco, and ironically it was ‘Paco the Pope of the Streets.’”

Pellerano recounts a pivotal moment of transformation when his daughter paid him a visit during his time in prison after leaving the gang underworld.

“Watching my kids grow up in pictures; watching my kids, you know, not being able to come visit me because I’m going to maximum security. But this one time, it’s etched in my heart,” Pellerano said.

“I’m fully restrained, I have the belt with the handcuffs with shackles, and my little girl… she was almost 2 years old when I first got incarcerated. By this time, she was about 6 years old. She was about 5 or 6 years old… So I go and visit, I’m holding my beautiful little girl, and she starts asking me all these questions,” he said.

“She grabs my handcuffs and she says, ‘Daddy, daddy, what is this?’ And it was brand-new handcuffs… and I said, ‘Oh, that’s my bracelets. You don’t see daddy shining over here?’ And she looks at me. She said, ‘Well, what is this?’ And she grabs my shackles and I started making the shackles jump like a jump rope. I said, ‘Oh, that’s my jump rope.’ She looks at me again and she says, ‘You look stuck. You look stuck.’ And then she asks me again, she’s like, ‘Daddy, what is this?’ I said handcuffs. She said, ‘Daddy, what is this?’ I said shackles.”

Pellerano continued: “She said, ‘Why they got you like this daddy?’ I said, ‘Because daddy was being bad and this is daddy’s punishment.’ And she looks at me and she says, ‘Well, daddy, promise me you’re not going to be bad anymore because I need you home with me, daddy. I need you home with me, daddy.’ It killed me. But I’m looking at her, and then she starts asking me questions. She was like, ‘Well, daddy,’ — because she’s mixed, so she said, ‘Daddy, what color are you? What color is mom? Well, what color am I?’ It killed me because my daughter didn’t know her identity because her father wasn’t in her life. And that’s what I look at going on in society today. People do not know their identity because they’re not in their father’s life.”

Pellerano said it was his addiction and near-fatal overdose that eventually led him to church, marking the beginning of his transformative journey. He described multiple heroin overdoses that put his life in jeopardy.

heroin picture

“Fast-forward to the third time I woke up in a hospital bed, the police officer was in front of me. I was trying to act like I’m sleeping, like playing possum. I’m looking because I knew I had more drugs on me, and I’m looking. I’m not cuffed to the bed, but I have IVs hanging on my arm. 

“So the minute the police officer left to help some of the nurses with another guy that came in real belligerent that was intoxicated, as soon as I seen him move, I jumped up. I ripped the IVs from my arm, and I broke out running. I made it through one door, but the other door, they have to buzz you out. And it brings me to the scripture that God will close doors no man can open and open doors that no man can close, and I thank God for that closed door because I needed to get caught.”

He expressed his desire for America to center its attention on Jesus, citing Bible passage John 1:1.

“The Bible says: ‘In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ This is my life, my story, so I have to tell it. I have to share it, and if God could do this in my life, what could He do in your life?” 

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