Paul Gallegos fancies himself Oxnard's biggest Dallas Cowboys fan. So naturally he worried when he heard police would be on the lookout for people wearing the team's trademark bold, blue star -- a logo co-opted two decades ago by a local street gang.
The self-employed accountant jumped in his Mercedes-Benz convertible -- outfitted with a custom license plate frame declaring his Texas-sized dedication to the five-time Super Bowl champions -- and drove to the police station just to make sure he was in the clear.
Turns out "America's Team" is holding its summer training camp in probably the only city in the nation where wearing Dallas Cowboy paraphernalia could draw a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
"All I needed was to get shot at or pulled over for interrogation," said Gallegos, 42, who is among hundreds of local fans ready to welcome Dallas Cowboy players, coaches and cheerleaders as they begin training Saturday in Oxnard.
Police and prosecutors earlier this year obtained an injunction that prevents the city's largest and most violent street gang from congregating in public, flashing gang signs and wearing Dallas Cowboy attire within a 6.6-square-mile "safety zone" in the heart of Ventura County's largest city. Violators are subject to arrest and misdemeanor charges.
Authorities, however, assured Gallegos that he would have no trouble behind the wheel of his CLK 320. "They said, 'I don't think gang members drive cars like this,' " he said.
Members of Oxnard's Colonia Chiques started taking the team's apparel and logo as their own in the mid-1980s, police say. They remove the W on Cowboy T-shirts and jerseys to form the words "CO BOYS," short for "Colonia Boys." They also took a liking to the Dallas Cowboys' star -- tattooing it on their shaved heads, for example. Officers said they recently encountered a suspected Colonia gang member with Dallas Cowboy bedsheets.
The gang's Cowboy wear has the power to spread fear among residents, authorities said in court papers. Just the sight of a Cowboy jersey or cap is enough to spur an attack from a rival gang member, even if the wearer is an innocent football fan, authorities alleged.
Since the injunction was granted in June on a preliminary basis, the Chiques have laid low and street violence has subsided, said Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez.
He said the clothing restrictions apply only to the three dozen or so Colonia gang members who have been served so far with a copy of the court order. Lopez said neither the team nor the herd of Cowboy-crazy fans expected to ride into town over the next three weeks have anything to worry about.
"The guys we are concerned about aren't true Dallas Cowboys fans," Lopez said. "Our guys know who the gang members are. They are easy to pick out because they've been in trouble so many times before."
For the second time in four years, the Cowboys will practice on football fields abandoned by the Raiders nearly a decade ago when the team moved from Los Angeles back to Oakland.
But unlike the Raiders, who drew criticism from fans and city officials for banning the public from practices, the Cowboys have erected bleachers so hundreds of supporters can watch their two-a-day practices for free. Fans also will be able to participate in a cheerleader clinic, a Hall of Fame exhibit and a Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Tourism officials expect as many as 125,000 people to attend the sessions and hope the visitors pump millions of dollars into the local economy.
"It's kind of a fluke, I guess," Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez said of the Cowboys-Colonia Chiques connection. "Of all the professional sports teams in the country, it's just a coincidence the Cowboys would come here. But we're glad they are."
The Cowboys have a long history in Ventura County. They held summer practices at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks from 1963 to 1989.
Cowboy public relations director Rich Dalrymple said he was aware of the gang injunction but said it didn't scare off the team.
"Individual sports teams cannot control who purchases officially licensed sportswear and merchandise," he said.
From his backyard, which looks out onto the Cowboy fields, Gallegos watched Thursday as the training camp came to life. In the shadow of lampposts bearing Dallas Cowboy pennants, water trucks sprayed the dirt parking lot, and an inflatable children's playhouse, known as the NFL Experience, ballooned to full size.
Weeks ago, accompanied by his faithful dog named for legendary Cowboy coach Tom Landry, Gallegos erected a banner in his backyard welcoming the team. He said he intended to spend as much time as he could at training camp. He also hopes to finagle an on-field pass for being the team's No. 1 fan in Oxnard -- just like it says on his license plate.
He said he wasn't worried about gangs or court injunctions. Not while his team is in town.
"There are 32 teams in the National Football League," Gallegos said. "What are the chances that my team, the one I grew up adoring, would come and practice literally in my backyard?"