John Torres '82, MS '86 (Criminal Justice)

Torres fulfills childhood dream, and then some

John “J.T.” Torres was 12 years old and delivering newspapers in south Stockton when, just feet in front of him, two drug dealers shot it out.

The violent incident became what the Sac State alumnus calls his “defining moment, my inspiration toward a career in law enforcement.”

Torres never wavered, despite spending three and a half years commuting from Stockton to campus, taking classes during the week and returning home on weekends to work.

“That foggy I-5 drive was tough,” he recalls, but he stayed on course because he had professors who “guided and mentored me,” and strong family values.

Torres’ father worked on farms and in canneries, and he had a strict, but supportive upbringing.

“It definitely wasn’t easy, but they scraped enough together to put my sister, brother and me though Catholic school,” he says. “They wanted us to get a good education so we wouldn’t have to work in the fields. We were taught that if you had an idea of where you wanted to go, you would be successful.”

At graduation, Torres was recruited by both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Internal Revenue Service. He joined ATF as a special agent, going undercover in Las Vegas and Phoenix to “get guns and dope off the street.”

Through the years, he was assigned increasingly more difficult cases and rose through the ranks. He was Special Agent in Charge for the Los Angeles Field Office, overseeing nine counties—from the Mexican border to San Bernardino, from Yuma to Carlsbad, all of Los Angeles and everything in between.

Torres’ staff of special agents successfully investigated and prosecuted members of the violent Mongols motorcycle gang, the Rollin 30s Crips and the Florencia 13 street gangs, and the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, as well as participating in numerous arson, wildfire and explosive theft investigations.

Even after obtaining his master’s degree from Sac State, Torres continued to pursue educational and leadership opportunities. He has attended executive development programs at the University of Virginia and graduated from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executives Development Program. In April, he will begin a two-year term as president of the Police Officers Association in Los Angeles County.

“Education does not end when you leave college. You should keep pushing yourself,” he says.

Torres was most recently promoted to Deputy Assistant Director at ATF headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Is he ever sorry he didn’t join the IRS?

“No,” he laughs. “This has been a good career and a great fit. I’ve had an impact on helping reduce violent crime in Los Angeles and in giving back to the community.”

This article was originally published in the Spring 2011 edition of Sac State Magazine.