Attack on family in Compton latest incident in wave of anti-black violence
A Latino gang is intimidating blacks into leaving the city that was once an African American enclave. It's part of a violent trend seen in other parts of the L.A. area.
The trouble began soon after they arrived.
The black family—a mother, three teenage children and a 10-year-old boy—moved into a little yellow home in Compton over Christmas vacation.
When a friend came to visit, four men in a black SUV pulled up and called him a "******," saying black people were barred from the neighborhood, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies. They jumped out, drew a gun on him and beat him with metal pipes.
It was just the beginning of what detectives said was a campaign by a Latino street gang to force an African American family to leave.
The attacks on the family are the latest in a series of violent incidents in which Latino gangs targeted blacks in parts of greater Los Angeles over the last decade.
Compton, with a population of about 97,000, was predominantly black for many years. It is now 65% Latino and 33% black, according to the 2010 U.S. census. But it's not only historically black areas that have been targeted.
Federal authorities have alleged in several indictments in the last decade that the Mexican Mafia prison gang has ordered street gangs under its control to attack African Americans. Leaders of the Azusa 13 gang were sentenced to lengthy prison terms earlier this month for leading a policy of attacking African American residents and expelling them from the town.
Similar attacks have taken place in Harbor Gateway, Highland Park, Pacoima, San Bernardino, Canoga Park and Wilmington, among other places. In the Compton case, sheriff's officials say the gang appears to have been acting on its own initiative.
Sheriff's detectives said Friday they had arrested Jeffrey Aguilar, 19, of Gardena and Efren Marquez, 21, of Rialto, both alleged members of the Compton Varrio 155 gang, and are continuing to look for more assailants.
"This family has no gang ties whatsoever," Sheriff's Lt. Richard Westin said. "They are complete innocent victims here."
The 19-year-old family friend managed to break free that first day and run into the house, where the children were the only ones at home.
The attackers left, but a half-hour later a crowd of as many as 20 people stood on the lawn yelling threats and epithets. A beer bottle crashed through the living room window as the youngsters watched in horror.
"They were scared if they called the sheriff they'd be killed," Westin said. "So they called their mom, who called the Sheriff's Department."
The gang members were gone by the time deputies arrived, but they kept coming back, almost daily, driving by slowly until they got someone's attention, then yelling racial insults and telling them to leave. The mother sent the children to live with relatives and is now packing up to leave herself.
"This gang has always made it clear they have a racial hatred for black people," said Westin, who has worked in the area for more than two decades. "They justify in their own sick minds because of their rivalry with the Compton black gangs. They repeatedly used racial epithets, they use racial hatred graffiti and they tag up the black church a lot."
At the home on 153rd Street on Friday, the rain-drenched street was empty and quiet. But the gang's presence was clear.
Its tags marked several long walls, stop signs, curbs and school crossing signs — often with the nicknames of individual gang members included.
Crews remove the graffiti almost every morning.
Down the street, the Greater Holy Faith Missionary Baptist Church — a remnant from the time when Compton was almost all black — is often tagged, most recently, just below the cross.
Neighbors say its pastors come on Sundays and no longer live in the area.