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Police mounted a large-scale raid this week aimed at weakening a violent Los Angeles street gang that regularly targets blacks.
Some 1,300 local, state and federal law enforcement officials were involved in the pre-dawn sweep on Tuesday that followed a year-long investigation and led to the arrest of more than 45 people connected to the Avenues gang. A far-reaching federal indictment named 88 members or associates of the Avenues who were wanted on charges that included murder, attempted murder, drug dealing, witness intimidation and money laundering.
The Avenues is a largely Hispanic gang controlled by the Mexican Mafia from within the California state prison system. The 222-page indictment unsealed Tuesday describes how the group tries to terrorize blacks who venture into its territory in Northeast Los Angeles. “Neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang are frequently ‘tagged’ with racist threats directed against African-Americans that are intended to intimidate African-Americans and prevent African-Americans from living in the neighborhood,” it said. “Avenues gang members also confront African-Americans with threats of violence and murder in order to intimidate and prevent African-Americans from residing in or entering the neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang.”
The indictment also noted several specific incidents of violence and intimidation directed at blacks. In a Sept. 5, 2000, incident, gang members including Sam Vega (also known as “Fox”) pulled a gun on a black man and said, “This is Avenues gang, what’s up nigger?” On March 8, 2005, gang members including Freddy Bailon (also known as “Thief”) attacked one victim and stabbed another in their home, “while shouting racial epithets and ordering them to move out of the neighborhood controlled by the Avenues gang,” according to the indictment. And on Feb. 21, 2009, while using a hidden telephone from his prison cell, gang member Richie Aguirre (also known as “Lil Pee Wee”) ordered his daughter not to associate with blacks.
An article published in 2006 in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report documented how the Avenues and other Hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles were waging campaigns of terror against blacks. After the racially-motivated murders of two black men, for instance, four Avenues gang members were convicted in 2005 of violating federal hate crime laws and sentenced to life in prison. This spring, 147 members and associates of another racist street gang in the Los Angeles suburbs, Varrio Hawaiian Gardens, were indicted on racketeering charges, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. The indictment alleged that gang members “have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.”