Los Angeles Gangs and Hate Crimes

Soon the prison race war spilled into the streets. The first battles were in the Santa Monica and Venice areas at apartment complexes like the Oakwood and Mar Vista Apartments.

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“Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.”
Harry Emerson Fosdick
“The Wages of Hate”

Racial strife between black and brown street gangs has always existed in modern Los Angeles. It was there when I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, in Compton, Willowbrook, and Watts in the 1960s. During this period Hispanics were the minority and were often the victims of predatory African-American gangs.

Back then the tension was rarely allowed to boil over into war because the gangs had sort of "mutual assured destruction pact" (like the one between the United States and the Soviet Union) that prevented potentially explosive gang race wars.

Unfortunately, this was not true in the California prisons and Youth Authority facilities. On the inside, the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood were allied against the Black Guerrilla Family and its ally the Nuestra Familia. And battles were common.

By the 1980s, the Hispanic gangs controlled the majority of the marijuana, powdered cocaine, and heroin trafficking, and they were rapidly taking over the methamphetamine production from the whites. But the lucrative crack cocaine market belonged to the African-American gangs. That was the status quo.

Then as the dynamics and demographics of Los Angeles changed, the Mexican Mafia gained power on the street. It began pushing all Sureño gangs to take over the drug trafficking in areas controlled by black gangs.

This came to a head on April 29, 1992, during the Rodney King riots. The rioting was primarily led by black and Hispanic gang members. On live television, the rioters burned down the guard shack in front of LAPD Parker Center and pulled innocent people from their cars at intersections like Florence and Normandy. The police seemed powerless to intervene, and were generally restrained by their administrators. So the city burned.

Four black rioters pulled passing white truck driver Reginald Denny from his vehicle and, in a televised assault, beat him on the TV News. One suspect, Eight Trey Gangster Crip gang member, Damian “Football” Williams, crushed Reginald Denny’s badly beaten head with a concrete block.

What was less noticed by the public during this infamous incident was another victim, a Hispanic male, who was pulled from his vehicle by Williams and publicly beaten almost to death. As a final insult “Football” Williams painted the Hispanic victim’s limp body with a spray can.

This was the spark that lit the Hispanic powder keg. Several incidents occurred between black and brown gang members following this televised insult.

When “Football” Williams was arrested, he was incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail awaiting trial for the Denny assault. And the Mexican Mafia placed him on the Green Light list to be murdered. Members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang were assigned the hit. Jail investigators learned of the plot and placed Williams in protective custody for his protection.

Soon the prison race war spilled into the streets. The first battles were in the Santa Monica and Venice areas at apartment complexes like the Oakwood and Mar Vista Apartments. The Venice Shoreline Crips and other Black gangs endured assault after assault from the Hispanic Venice 13 gang and the Culver City Boys until they capitulated and paid taxes to the Mexican Mafia. When Mafia Member George "Grandpa" Bustamonte was arrested by the LASD Major Crimes Surveillance team during the first Mexican Mafia RICO case (1995), he was in the act of collecting these taxes from the Black street gangs in the Santa Monica area.

Another example was the war between the the Fruit Town Piru and Tortilla Flats gangs. They had grown up together in Compton and lived together as neighbors and tolerated each other for more than 30 years. In May of 1999, Compton Tortilla Flats member, Jorge "Santos" Diaz, was convicted of the "Hate Crime Murder" of victim Levar Higgins in the Fruit Town Piru gang area.

In a similar way, Compton Setentas (70s) and the Lueders Park Piru gangs had co-existed. But now they also went to war. Before, they had maintained a tense but consistent peace and even cooperated in the past.

In Long Beach, the East Side and West Side Longo gangs put away their rivalry and differences and joined with all Sureño gangs to attack the Tiny Rascal Gangsters (TRG), a Cambodian gang in alliance with the Long Beach Insane Crip gang.

All Asians are referred to by Hispanic gang members as “Chinos” (Spanish for Chinese). That’s why in one of the Mexican Mafia’s 1997 Green Light lists, Sureño gang members were directed to kill TRG members and, "any Chino, except South Side Chinos" (“South Side Chinos” are Asian gangs aligned with the Sureños).

The city of Hawaiian Gardens is the home of Luis "Huero Buff" Flores, founder of the Mexican Mafia. The Hawaiian Gardens gang had a race hate policy for many years. During the trial of Jose "Sepy" Orozco for the murder of LASD OSS Gang Unit Deputy Jerry Ortiz, evidence of hate crimes against African-Americans was also presented. including the use of the term "Hate Gang" in the Hawaiian Gardens’ gang graffiti.

There are numerous examples of this race hate attitude in the Pomona 12th Street area as well. Pomona 12th Street had a clique called "Nigger Killers," who specialized in racial hate murders.

In his book “Mexican Mafia” author Tony Rafael chronicles a series of murders committed by members of the LA Avenues street gang in compliance with the Mexican Mafia’s codes of conduct. I was the gang expert during the several years it took for these eight defendants to be tried for seven murders. The Avenues gang also had a long history of racially motivated violence against African Americans.

In 2006 using laws traditionally to combat white supremacist groups like the Nazi Skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five Avenues gang members: Gilbert “Lucky” Saldana, Alejandro “Bird” Martinez, Porfirio “Dreamer” Avila and “Sneaky” Cazares. The fifth defendant was a fugitive, Merced “Shadow” Cambero.

In August of 2006 all four were convicted in the race murder of an African-American man who was shot in his parked car in 1999 and a man standing at a bus stop in 2000.
Unfortunately, the prosecution was prevented from bringing in the hate crime ties with all Sureño gangs and the Mexican Mafia because of restrictive filings used by the defense attorneys early in the trial. The prosecution’s lack of familiarity with Los Angeles street gangs prevented them from being more aggressive on this issue until later in the trial when it was too late.

There are many other examples found all over the Los Angeles Area of these racial gang wars. These include: Eastside Duarte vs. Duroc Crips, Rancho San Pedro vs. Dodge City Crips, and Blacks vs. Azusa, Norwalk, Florence 13, and 18th Street.

These race wars have now gone full circle affecting all the California Department of Corrections (CDC) facilities, Youth Authority (CYA) facilities, and jails as far away as Las Vegas.

This situation cannot be further tolerated in Los Angeles or any other American city. The hate crime and conspiracy statutes can be used as tools against these gangs with great effect. All we need is the courage and fortitude to employ them.

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Sergeant (Ret.)
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