A leader of a Latino street gang was sentenced to 16 years in prison for firebombing the homes of black families in Los Angeles, the U.S. States Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California announced Tuesday.
Gangster who coordinated firebombing attacks on African American residences sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. Carlos Hernandez pleaded guilty in hate crime conspiracy and admitted attacks were to drive victims out of their homes.https://t.co/pPdgSelQ0O
— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) March 23, 2021
Carlos Hernandez, 36, led seven members of the Big Hazard street gang in firebombing the Ramona Gardens housing complexes in May 2014, the statement said. Hernandez and the seven gang members targeted the residences, located in Boyle Heights, because African-Americans lived in the mainly Latino public housing complex. (RELATED: Los Angeles Saw The Number Of Rapes, Robberies Fall, While Homicides Rose In 2020)
Hernandez and the other gang members threw Molotov cocktails into four apartments where most of the residents, including 10 children, were sleeping, the statement said. One mother who was sleeping with her baby at the time of the attack barely avoided being struck by the firebomb.
Hernandez provided the gang members with masks to conceal their identities during the attack, and each of them stashed their cell phones to prevent police from tracking them. Hernandez also armed himself with a semiautomatic handgun during the firebombing, according to the statement.
Prosecutors said Hernandez used a racial slur when telling the other gang members that the firebombings would push black residents out of the development, according to the Los Angeles Times.
All of the other gang members who carried out the firebombing were charged in 2016 and pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges. Hernandez pleaded guilty in April 2019 to five felony counts, including conspiracy to violate the residents’ civil rights.
“The defendants in this case perpetrated hate crimes that targeted innocent victims in their homes simply because of their skin color,” Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said, according to the statement. “These despicable acts are simply unacceptable in our society.”
No one except Hernandez was seriously injured in the attack, prosecutors said.
Racial conflict at the Ramona Gardens housing development has a long history. The development is Los Angeles’ oldest public housing project and for years was controlled by Big Hazard, which is based in the area and has around 350 active members.
The gang is known for its violent record of killing, robbery, drug dealing and threats against black residents of the development, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1992, a firebombing at the development destroyed the apartments of two of the seven black families who lived there. Gang intimidation prevented victims from helping investigators track down who was responsible for the attack.