A still from surveillance video shows at Ramona Gardens on May 12, 2014, during the firebomb attack. (YouTube)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven Latino gang members in Los Angeles have been charged with firebombing the homes of Black families in 2014 to drive them out of a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, according to a federal court indictment made public Thursday.
The men charged are members and associates of the Big Hazard street gang and hurled Molotov cocktails at apartments in a public housing complex in May 2014, prosecutors said.
The men were trying to drive Black people out of the complex, located in the Boyle Heights area near downtown, prosecutors said.
“This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement Thursday.
The attack caused minor to moderate property damage to the homes of four families at the Ramona Gardens housing complex, an overwhelmingly Latino area with a history of racial tensions and violence.
No one was hurt, but prosecutors said one of the firebombs landed where a woman and her baby had just been sleeping.
The men charged are Carlos Hernandez, 31; Jose Saucedo, 22; Francisco Farias, 25; Joseue Garibay, 23; Edwin Felix, 23; Jonathan Portillo, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, 21.
Prosecutors say Hernandez organized the firebombing and used a racial slur when referring to the black families living there.
It was unclear whether Hernandez and the other men have attorneys. They are expected to appear in court at various upcoming dates.
The charges against them include conspiracy to violate civil rights, attempted arson of federal property, and using fire and explosives to commit a federal felony. At 10 counts, it’s one of the largest civil rights indictments in local history, according to the FBI.
They were also charged stemming from their involvement with Big Hazard, which included using violence and intimidation to control their territory, according to the indictment.
The men face spending the rest of their lives in prison if convicted of all the charges.