Black-Hispanic gang rivalries send chill through Los Angeles
Alejandro "Bird" Martinez was joyriding in a stolen van full of fellow gangbangers when the crew came upon a black man parking his car and decided to kill him.
Martinez and two others hopped out and riddled Kenneth Kurry Wilson and his Cadillac with bullets from a .357 revolver, a 9 mm semiautomatic and a 12-gauge shotgun.
Four members of the Avenues, a Hispanic gang entrenched in one Los Angeles neighborhood, were convicted of federal hate crimes usually tagged on white supremacists.
Prosecutors argued the gang was trying to drive blacks out.
The slaying was seven years ago, but the verdict this month was one in a series of reminders this summer that racially motivated black and Hispanic gang violence remains a Los Angeles reality.
While some police, academics and even gang members insist racism isn't a factor in the violence, a pair of headline-grabbing killings — of a Hispanic teen by a black assailant who witnesses said yelled a gang name as he fled and a drive-by shooting by a pair of black gunmen that left three Hispanics dead — suggest otherwise.
"If it's not race motivated, if it's not gang motivated, then what the hell is the motivation?" asked South Los Angeles activist Taylor Mayfield after the June 30 drive-by.
After 20 gang shootings in Compton left four dead over one July weekend, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca cited tensions between black and Hispanic gangs as he redeployed deputies to the area.
The federal prosecutor who oversaw the Avenues case announced plans to prosecute other gangs involved in race-based violence.
The June 30 slayings prompted black and Hispanic leaders to hold an emergency discussion of how to prevent a bloody back and forth.
"Please talk to your gang members and ask them to bring a truce," South Los Angeles activist Eddie Jones appealed to black and Hispanic gang leaders.
"Stop the shooting and the senseless killing."
Four SoCal gang members convicted of hate crimes