Members of an Eastside Latino gang tried to firebomb black families out of a community the suspects claimed as their own, federal officials said today.
The purpose was to "get the n——— out of the neighborhood," federal prosecutors paraphrased alleged ringleader Carlos Hernandez as saying before the May 2014 attacks on four homes in the public Ramona Gardens housing development.
A 10-count indictment against seven Big Hazard gangsters alleged to have taken part in a racist conspiracy was revealed today. "This is a hate crime," said principal deputy assistant attorney general Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
The document alleges 31-year-old Hernandez met with the defendants in early May of that year to plan the firebombing, which would be done with Molotov cocktails.
On Mother's Day (May 11) of 2014, "Hernandez distributed materials to be used during the firebombings, including disguises, gloves and other materials," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A.
"The indictment alleges that Hernandez instructed the other defendants to split into groups, break victims’ windows in order to make clean entries, then ignite the firebombs and throw them into the victims’ residences in order to maximize damage," according to the statement.
The gangsters stashed their cellphones before the operation so they couldn't be tracked, prosecutors claimed.
Shortly after midnight on May 12, the defendants carried out the firebombings at four Ramona Gardens units, prosecutors allege, and all but one were occupied by African-Americans; the one that wasn't was adjacent to a black family's home.
One firebomb landed where a mother and her baby had been sleeping moments before fleeing (they had heard a window shatter), according to the indictment.
Hernandez cut his arm trying to introduce a Molotov cocktail, feds said, and he ended up in a hospital that morning.
Prosecutors said the violence was part of a pattern of Big Hazard threats against African-American residents of the area.
"The defendants and others allegedly met to discuss ways to threaten, intimidate and attack African-Americans in their residences, on the streets and elsewhere, to deter them from living in Ramona Gardens because of their race and color," the U.S. Attorney's Office stated. "[Jose] Saucedo would confront African-American residents, including mixed-race children, and individually or collectively threaten them by telling them they were not welcome in Hazard gang territory, namely [Ramona Gardens], and that they risked harm if they remained as residents."
The indictment includes allegations of conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to use explosives, attempted arson of federal property, violent crime in aid of racketeering, and interference with housing rights.
Named defendants include Hernandez; Saucedo, 22; Francisco Farias, 25; Joseue Garibay, 23; Edwin Felix, 23; Jonathan Portillo, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, 21.
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Some defendants could see 115 years behind bars, others life, if they're successfully convicted, feds said.
"The crime was particularly disturbing since the targets of the criminal conduct included children," said the U.S. Attorney in L.A., Eileen M. Decker. "As the indictment unsealed today demonstrates, criminals that fuel racial animosity will face severe consequences."
Big Hazard, established in the 1940s, is connected to the Mexican Mafia, feds say, and was subject to a sweeping racketeering case in 2014 that alleged drug trafficking by the gang.