Criminal Justice

61 Indicted in LA Neighborhood Race War

A race war between black and Latino street gang members in one South Los Angeles neighborhood has resulted in the federal indictment of more than 60 alleged Florencia 13 associates.

They are accused of waging a race-based war against their African-American gang rivals, the East Coast Crips, in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood north of Watts. In 2005, there were 41 murders there, “surpassing the homicide rate in some of the nation’s most dangerous big cities,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Subsequently, some 230 felony arrests helped halve murders there to a still sky-high 19 in 2006.

Half of the victims aren’t gang affiliates, the newspaper says, which accords with Chris Le Grande’s experience. He is pastor of Great Hope Fellowship in Faith, a large African-American neighborhood church.

At one time, gang members rather than bystanders were targeted, he says. “Now it’s deliberate. ‘I’m deliberately shooting you because of your color.’ “

However, Robert Ramirez, who is identified by the Times as a Florencia 13 gang member, denies that.

“I’m not going to say we’re angels, but it’s 50-50,” he told a reporter during a tagging operation, in which fellow gang members spray-painted Florencia graffiti on walls. ” ‘Any black, shoot on sight?’–it’s not true,” Ramirez says. “Nobody likes a racist person.”

Authorities contend Florencia associates are responsible for at least 20 race-based killings centered on the Florence-Firestone neighborhood during the past three years, the Times reported in an earlier story. In addition, “officials said Tuesday that they had determined that 80 shootings since early 2005 had resulted from the gang violence,” the newspaper states.

The article says 61 alleged Florencia 13 gang members and associates were charged “with a variety of felonies, including weapons violations, drug sales and conspiracy to commit murder.” Prosecutors also have the option, under many counts, to pursuing additional hate-crime charges with enhanced penalties.

Such race-based killing is unusual, according to the newspaper, which says most crimes involve perpetrators and victims of the same race. However, the Florencia gang allegedly sought to force black rivals out of the neighborhood, which was once African-American but is now Latino.

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