Mexico has turned over to the United States a man suspected of involvement in two hate crime murders more than 17 years ago in California. The case is the first of its kind where civil rights criminal charges were filed against members of a street gang, authorities say.
Merced “Shadow” Cambero Jr., 38, an alleged former member of the “Avenues” street gang, was arrested in Baja, Mexico, where he was living under a fictitious name, and turned over to U.S. law enforcement agents on Feb. 3.
Cambero was arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on federal hate crimes charges related to the racially motivated murders of two black men in Highland Park, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles.
“Despite this defendant’s efforts to avoid prosecution over the course of many years, his appearance in court today demonstrates that law enforcement and my office will be tenacious in pursuing justice against such criminal conduct,” Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said.
Kenneth Kurry Wilson, 38, was fatally shot in Highland Park on April 18, 1999. Cambero is one of two “triggermen” accused in that homicide. ]
Cambero and other members of the “Avenues” street gang also were accused of fatally shooting Christopher Bowser on Dec. 11, 2000, while he waited for a bus in Highland Park.
Cambero and other gang members were indicted in 2004. The other defendants were apprehended and subsequently convicted. They each were sentenced in 2006 and 2007 to life in federal prison without parole, while Cambero became a fugitive and fled the United States.
The criminal civil rights conspiracy charge alleges that Cambero participated in a 1997 attack on men playing basketball in a park in Los Angeles.
The hate related crime spree by the gang continued, authorities say, when several members ambushed a black man in 1998 and struck him in the head with a metal object and attacked another black man in a park in 1999.
The gang members also shouted racial slurs at a black woman in a supermarket and a black man walking down a street in 1999, the indictment alleges.
“The victims in this case were targeted simply because of their skin color and because members of the gang wanted to rid their neighborhood of African Americans,” the U.S. attorney said. “The heinous conduct with which this defendant is charged has no place in this nation, and the Department of Justice will stand steadfastly against hate crimes like those charged.”