A Los Angeles gang threw molotov cocktails into black families' homes as part of an intimidation campaign to drive them out of a predominantly Latino public housing project, U.S. prosecutors allege.
In an indictment released Thursday, the Justice Department said the attack, allegedly carried out by a Latino gang known as Hazard Grande at the Ramona Gardens housing project in East Los Angeles, was racially motivated, confirming the Los Angeles Times description of the incident at the time as having "the hallmarks of the racial attack from the area's darker years." A similar firebombing more than 20 years earlier, the Times reported, "prompted most African American families to flee" the project. No one was injured in the May 2014 attacks.
But black families had begun to return in recent years. At the time of the attack, the Times reported, there were 23 families living in the project, or about 3% of its population.
That was too many for the suspects.
“The defendants used firebombs to drive the victims from their homes because of their race,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press release announcing the new indictment. “This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society.”
In the run up to the attack, the gang members ran a terror campaign against the project's black residents, the indictment alleges (emphasis ours throughout):
And black families living in the project found themselves under frequent surveillance:
Finally, the gang's violence escalated. The indictment lays out the motivation for the attack:
On Mothers Day 2014, the defendants carried out the attack, while one of the victims, a baby, slept.
They attacked four apartments, hurling firebombs through broken windows:
But their threats didn't stop there:
Unfortunately, the attacks seemed to have worked. The Times said that some of the 23 black families immediately put in for emergency transfers to other housing projects, while others simply left.
Because no one was injured in the attack, the suspects were not charged with federal hate crimes, but rather attempt to abridge civil rights. Still, if convicted, the suspects face a maximum of 110 to 115 years in prison.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.