By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
ALTHOUGH MEMBERS OF A LATINO street gang were convicted in federal court last Tuesday of committing a string of deadly hate crimes intended to drive blacks out of Highland Park, the predominantly Latino neighborhood just north of downtown is far from free of gang-fueled strife. Even as the trial was unfolding, another young man was shot at a party during a confrontation between gang members and a black youth.
The convictions of Gilbert “Lucky” Saldana, 27, Alejandro “Bird” Martinez, 29, Fernando “Sneaky” Cazares, 26, and Porfirio “Dreamer” Avila, 31 — all members of the Avenues gang clique known as the Aves 43 — marked the first use of a federal hate-crime statute against a street gang by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sentencing for Cazares, Martinez and Saldana is scheduled for October 23. Avila is scheduled to be sentenced on November 20. The four are likely facing life sentences.
During the four-week trial in federal court in downtown Los Angeles, prosecutors painted a grim picture of Aves 43 gang members who, during a six-year campaign between 1995 and 2001, threatened, intimidated and beat African-Americans who dared to make Highland Park their home, and ultimately killed three black residents. Kenneth Kurry Wilson, 38, was shot to death by a van full of Avenues gang members in the early hours of Sunday morning on April 18, 1999, as he was attempting to park a Cadillac on Avenue 52, a tree-lined street just a short jog from Figueroa Street. The following year, Christopher Bowser, 28, was shot three times in the head while he was waiting at a bus stop. Bowser, who had lived in Highland Park with his mother since 1989, had been regularly chased down the street, threatened and, just eight days before his death, was beaten by the Aves 43 set. A third victim, 21-year-old Anthony Prudhomme, an aspiring music producer, was attacked in his bed and shot twice in the head.
The federal jury deliberated just over two days before finding Saldana, Martinez, Cazares and Avila guilty of conspiring to interfere with the housing rights of black residents through threats and violence. Cazares, Martinez and Saldana were also found guilty of violating a federal hate-crime statute, which is based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery, by killing Wilson because of his race and while he was using a public street. They were also found guilty of using a firearm. A fifth defendant, Merced Cambero, 27, who is alleged to have fired the shot that killed Wilson, is currently a fugitive and remains under indictment.
Prosecutors largely based their case on the testimony of two former Avenues gang members, Jose de la Cruz and Jesse Diaz, who claimed to be in the van on the night of Wilson’s murder along with the defendants. De la Cruz is currently serving a 45-year sentence in state prison for his role in Wilson’s slaying. Diaz is serving a 20-year sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer. Both men agreed to testify against their childhood chums in hopes of getting time knocked off their sentences.
The two former gangsters told the 12 jurors in shocking detail about meetings held at a neighborhood park to discuss the “infestation” of blacks in Highland Park, and random attacks, such as the beating of a homeless man who was seen walking with a Latino woman, an assault on a group of men playing basketball in Montecito Park, racial slurs directed at a mother and her daughter in a supermarket, and the beating of a black man who stopped to use a pay phone on the street.
During the trial, defense lawyers relentlessly questioned the credibility of Diaz and de la Cruz as well as the testimony of two law-enforcement officials. The defense also argued that the hate-crime statute was “unconstitutional” and that it was specifically designed to target not street crimes, but the bigotry that interfered with civil rights historically denied blacks in the Southern states.
Friends and family members of the victims voiced relief at the verdicts, saying that they wanted Highland Park to be a place where African-Americans can live in peace.
“My kids might have to move out there one day, and I hope it changes by then,” said Don Petrie, an elementary school friend and neighbor of Bowser’s who said that he and Bowser regularly escaped beatings, and had been shot at by the gang. “It sends a message that you don’t judge people by the color of their skin. They let me know every other day that they didn’t want me in the neighborhood.”
Tuesday’s conviction by no means signals an end to the violence in Highland Park. On July 22, when the federal hate-crime trial was already under way, a 17-year-old graduate of Lincoln High School was shot to death after attending a party on Avenue 40 — Aves 43 gang territory. Police are trying to determine whether members of the Aves 43 were involved in the slaying, which followed a confrontation between gang members and an African-American teen during a party of 100 or so mostly high school students. According to law-enforcement sources, gang members confronted the African-American teen, who was singing, and told him to “shut the fuck up.”
VARRIO SOUTH SIDE KINGS 13 GANG FUCK BUSTERS AND NIGGERS 187 ON YOU LEVAS 559 CENTRAL VALLEY CALIFAZ VISALIA TULARE COUNTY ESE BUSTERA KILLAZ
FUCK NIGGERS THATS WATS UP ESE SERIO AND FUCK A PARK U FOOS ARE FUCKEN LAMES CAILE TO DREW STREET BITCH As FOOS SKULL GANG OR DNT BANG AVES GANG KILLS FOR THRILLS AND U KNOW IT NIGGERS GET THE FUCK OUT OF NORTH EAsT LOS ANGELES AND OTHER RACES OTHER THAN THE RAZA THIS IS IMP FROM AVENUES GANG DREW ST PWGS U KNOW WERE TO FIND ME CALLE DREW MOTHER FUCKER THOUGHT U KNEW
THATS RIGHT VARRIO AVENUES 43RD TLS STOP HATING BITCH ASS HALAS CAUSE U CANT HANG WITH THE SKULL GANG KEEP HIDING BITCH FUCKEN TWEAKERS AHA KICKING IT WITH UR OWN ENEMIGAS FROM DOG SHITS AHAH FUCKEN LAMESBIG SKULL GANG 43RD FUCK THE REST
ive lived near avenue 43 all my life and most of the people near where i live are nice. people like you need to chill for the sake of los angeles, highland park, montecito heights and latino americans. Si yo era tu papa yo tu no tenia que hacer babosadas como estas haciendo. Even the og gangsters who founded Las Avenues think you're a fucking joke. Peace out and stop living in a hate filled world or you are going to be shot or in jail. Por favor calmate
who needs these stupid gangs, that kiII their own race what kind-of shit is that, these kids grew up pIaying t-baII now they r kiIIing each other where r the parents in aII this this ave's and highIand park stuff is so stupid i hate how our race has become:(
MAN FUCK THOSE FUCKEN HATERS HOMIE ITS STILL NORTH EAST vAVENUES GANG HOMIE THAT BIG BAD ASS CALLE DREW FUCK THE CRASH
ALL YOU HOPELESS CHAVALAS ARE LUCKY MOST OF THE OG CALAVERAS ARE UPSTATE OR YOU WOULDNT BE THINKING YOU RUN THE NORTHEAST. THE ONLY THING YOU PUTOS EVER RUN IS YOUR MOUTHS. CALAVERAS RUN THE SHOW!!!!!!!!!!! SOY DOPER FROM THAT ALMIGHTY CYPRESS AVENUES 57 CHS!!!!!!!!!!!
The avenues are punks that like to shoot at little girls that are two, that is the absolute truth, they are insects that need to be gassed as soon as possible, scum of the earth.
HAHAHA!! "SHUT THE FUK UP" FUK NIGGERS, GET THE FUK OUT OF THE NORHTEAST!!BIG BAD ASS AVENUES CONTROLA!! FUK hALApITOS! 43RD ALL DAT TINY LOCOS!
The "new World" was founded by Nazis, the indigenous residents of the "Americas" were murdered by Nazis, Our so called society was founded and run by no good Nazis (normally called Puritans, Calvinists, or Conquistadors) . Violent gangs are just the symptom of over 500 years of Nazi rule in the Western Hemisphere
Them mexicans better hope they never come into my hood. They will be met first by the neighborhood watch sign. Then there are like 5 dogs running around and they can be mean too. Then at night the street lights are really bright and they can see who is out there. So dont evevn think about it bandahoes.
Hummm lets seee. Blacks aginst latinos Now why would anyone want to just up and kill someone because of their color? Dont you people realize that GOD created us all equal. Why dont you people wake up?
FUCK HALAS VARRIO AVENIDAS Y QUE PARK KILLA FUCK ALL PARKS FUCK NIGGERS CLICK CLICK BANG BANG AVENUES GANG
v.AVENUES 43RD TINYS BITch!!!FUck ThEM pArqueros And ThERE lAme Ass lovers!!!FUcK hAlApENOS, chicken pArk, lechugA htS, lopS, dOG shIT, cheese cAKE, fAKE TEEn, DUmB FuCks, Mecho pArk, siSsyS,!!!!!!! cOMe OUT And plAy WITh thEM SKULLS!!!
BANG BANG AVENUES 43RD GANG OR DONT BANG!!! FUcK chAvAlA pArk, hAlApenos!!! REST IN PISS TO ALL YOU FUcKEN pArqueros!!!WE RUN THE NORTH EAST BITch FUcK boxer FROM hAlAs!!!Never Enterin Los Avenues
Fuck Noodles Ese, Varrio Cypress Parque Rifa!! Fuck The Niggerz 2, Itz A SouthSide Thang!! WELCOME 2 The NorthEast Area Of LOS ANGELES!!!
BIG BAD VARRIO HIGHLAND PARQUE GANG!!! FUCK PUSSY ASS NOODLES WE RUN THE HOOD FUCK ANYONE ELSE WHO AINT DOWN WIT DA VARRIO HLP!!!MR. BOXERLOCO SAID IT!!!
this fx3 fuck cheese toast crab tramp eight n brown monkey shit fadeteen street hang out bitches jalapenos gummy bearz pf hot fries northcacas crazy monkey killa gay fags mls13 peanut butter fifi's rolling twinkys dieru
hey nate.u fuckin pendejo!!!!! what makes us hispanics better than them? you have no clue you fucking moron. keeping the raza from what? maybe its you losers who need to go...
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