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Oct 26 - Latino Gangs Tried To 'CLEANSE' Los Angeles Of Black People



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 10-26-2007, 11:43 AM         #1
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Oct 26 - Latino Gangs Tried To 'CLEANSE' Los Angeles Of Black People
 

 
A south Los Angeles Latino street gang targeted African-American gang rivals and other blacks in a campaign of neighborhood "cleansing," federal prosecutors say. Alleged leaders and foot soldiers in the Hispanic gang Florencia 13, also called F13, are being arraigned this week on charges stemming from a pair of federal indictments that allege that the gang kept a tight grip on its turf by shooting members of a rival gang—and sometimes random black civilians. The "most disturbing aspect" of the federal charges was that "innocent citizens … ended up being shot simply because of the color of their skin," U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien told reporters in announcing the indictments.

No one is sure what started the war between F13 and the black gang known as the East Coast Crips in the Florence-Firestone area of unincorporated L.A. County. Simple neighborhood demographic shifts played a role, as formerly black areas have become majority-Latino. The two gangs are also rivals in the lucrative drug trade. Much of the F13 indictments lay out a conspiracy alleging that gang members controlled drug houses where they sold large amounts of cocaine, crack and methamphetamine. Some say the k*llings began after the Crips pulled a large drug heist against F13 several years ago. Whatever the causes, L.A. Sheriff's Department statistics chart the war's violent toll: 80 gang-related shootings in the past three years, including 20 murders.

The federal charges name 61 alleged F13 members in two indictments. The gang-violence charges came in a 53-count RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) indictment against 24 alleged gang leaders, charging them in a conspiracy to sell drugs, possess weapons illegally, and a*sault and k*ll black gang members and civilians. In the second indictment prosecutors charged the rest of the men on federal drug-distribution charges. More than 40 of the defendants pleaded not guilty at arraignments Tuesday, according to prosecutors. Michael Khouri, an attorney for Luis Aguilar, 35, says his client left the gang "several years ago" and served recently as a gang negotiator. "Mr. Aguilar will plead not guilty, and he is not guilty," says Khouri. Fifteen of the accused remain fugitives.

The indictments provide a telling snapshot of the changing nature of gangs in south L.A. According to federal prosecutors, F13 has grown into a tightly controlled gang of 2,000 members in 30 cliques led by convicts and parolees who are members of the prison-based Mexican mafia. It's a far cry from the '80s, when the black drug gangs, including the Crips and the Bloods, predominated, mining the crack epidemic with ruthless efficiency. Compared with looser Latino gangs that were seen as turf-conscious f*ghters, the black gangs were organized and disciplined. "The stereotype was that [the black gangs] were all about the [drug] business," says gang researcher Cheryl Maxson, an a*sociate professor of criminology at University of California, Irvine. With the black gangs, "there was a millionaire in every neighborhood" perched at the top of the crack distribution pyramid, adds gang expert, who edits streetgangs.com.

Now it's the Latino drug gangs that seem tighter and more highly controlled. "The Hispanic gangs like F13 were incredibly regulated, from the street level to the leadership in the prisons," says Olivia Rosales, a hard-core gangs prosecutor for the L.A. district attorney's office who prosecuted F13 and Crips homicide cases for two years. She now heads one of the DA's satellite offices. "The East Coast Crips weren't as organized."

Top-down organization in F13 aided the a*saults on black gangsters. The federal indictments charge that Mexican mafia leaders "make sure that all the F13 cliques were participating in the a*saults of African-American rival gang members." But the a*saults went beyond rival gangs; they "target[ed] African-American individuals for a*sault," according to the indictment. Gang leaders even allegedly instructed foot soldiers in how to hunt blacks in the most efficient manner, the feds maintain. A wiretap cited in the RICO indictment reveals that one gang leader allegedly told an underling that "when he went looking for African-Americans to shoot, only a driver and a shooter were needed."
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 http://www.newsweek.com/id/61950



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