Gang Charged in Attack on Black Neighbors

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — Seven members of a Mexican street gang in LA were charged Thursday in an arson attack on black residents living in a gang-controlled public housing complex in the Boyle Heights area.
     According to a 10-count unsealed indictment, the defendants are all members or associates of the Mexican Mafia gang known as the Big Hazard or Hazard Grande street gang, whose reach extends into state and federal prisons.
     The attack against black families and their children happened on May 12, 2014, at the Ramona Gardens public housing complex, the U.S. Attorney for Central District of California said in a statement.
     As of June 2016, Ramona Gardens is a predominantly Latino complex with black residents making up just 3 percent of the population, the government says.
     The government says the ringleader of the attack on Ramona Gardens apartments was defendant Carlos Hernandez, 31, who is also known as “Creeper” and “Rider.”
     He told the other gang members at a meeting before that the attack that they would use Molotov cocktails to firebomb the families and made clear to the members that they were orchestrating the attack in order to drive the black residents out of the neighborhood, the indictment states.
     At a May 11 meeting in the gang’s territory, Hernandez handed out disguises, gloves, and other materials, the indictment says.
     Members of the Hazard gang were instructed to break up into groups, smash windows and toss the firebombs into the homes, the indictment says.
     According to the indictment, a mother was sitting on her couch with her sleeping baby in her apartment when they heard a window break and a firebomb landed in the area where they had just been sleeping.
     The indictment says that another apartment occupied by a resident with her children and grandchildren was attacked by Hernandez, who cut his right arm on broken glass as he threw a Molotov cocktail inside.
     In a statement, Deirdre Fike, a director with the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said that the two-year investigation “resulted in one of the largest civil rights indictments in local history.”
     “The FBI is committed to seeking justice for the victims whose homes were barbarically firebombed as they put their children to bed, or anyone whose constitutionally protected right to happiness is threatened based on the color of their skin,” Fike said.
     The federal grand jury indictment names as defendants Hernandez, Jose Saucedo aka Lil’ Moe, 22; Francisco Farias aka Bones, 25; Josue Garibay aka Malo, 23; Edwin Felix aka Boogie, 23; Jonathan Portillo aka Pelon, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez aka Gallo, 21.
     The gang members were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony, attempted arson of federal property and other counts.
     In addition to the arson attack, the defendants have been charged in a racketeering conspiracy for activities that include robbery, extortion, witness tampering, trafficking, and conspiracy to traffic drugs.
     The gang members actively discourage black residents from living in Ramona Gardens and threatened or attacked them to deter or drive them out of the gang controlled complex, the government says.
     “Crimes targeting innocent people based on the color of their skin are among the most heinous crimes a community can suffer,” U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said. “In this case, the crime was particularly disturbing since the targets of the criminal conduct included children.”
     Saucedo, Garibay, Portillo, and Monarrez face a maximum sentence of 110 years in federal prison if convicted.
     Hernandez and Farias face life in prison, while Felix faces a maximum sentence of 115 years if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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