Seven Los Angeles men were indicted in firebombings at the homes of black residents two years ago at a Los Angeles housing project.
The attacks, allegedly carried out by a Latino street gang, targeted the families in an effort to drive them out of a neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles, according to federal prosecutors. The suspects considered the area territory of the Big Hazard street gang, authorities said.
The seven defendants were named in a 25-page federal indictment handed down June 22 and unsealed Thursday. They were charged in connection with the May 12, 2014 firebombings in the Ramona Gardens housing project, a federally and city funded development with mostly Latino residents.
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Prosecutors said the gang members, known by names like Creeper, Rider, Bones and Malo, met in early May 2014, when they plotted to hurl Molotov cocktails into residences. They planned to break windows, ignite the Molotov cocktails and toss them into the residences, according to the indictment.
The defendants met again on May 11, 2014 -- Mother's Day -- and passed out materials to be used during the firebombings, including disguises and gloves, prosecutors said.
"The defendants used firebombs to drive the victims from their homes because of their race," according to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society."
The firebombings were carried out shortly after midnight on May 12, 2014. Fire officials said at the time there were no injuries, and only "minimal damage" was reported.
Some of the families were at home with their children at the time of the attacks.
"In this case, the crime was particularly disturbing since the targets of the criminal conduct included children," said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California. "As the indictment unsealed today demonstrates, criminals that fuel racial animosity will face severe consequences. All of our communities are made safer by removing these defendants, for whom violence and intimidation are tools of their trade, from the streets."
Most of the victims were black, but authorities said one Latino family was likely accidentally attacked.
The defendants faces several charges, including conspiracy to violate civil rights; conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony; attempted arson of federal property; using fire and carrying explosives to commit another federal felony; aiding and abetting; and violent crime in aid of racketeering and interference with housing rights.
The Hazard Gang, which derived its name from a park, originated in the early 1940s and claimed territory east of downtown Los Angeles. The housing project was built in the 1950s.