A member of a Hispanic street gang has pleaded guilty to federal charges after he orchestrated the 2014 firebombing of African-American homes in a Los Angeles public housing complex, officials said on Tuesday.
Carlos Hernandez, 34, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday to conspiracy to violate civil rights, violent crime in aid of racketeering, carrying explosives to commit a felony, possessing a firearm in a crime of violence and violating the Fair Housing Act. On May 11, 2014, Hernandez and seven other members of a street gang agreed to firebomb several apartments in the Ramona Gardens Housing Development because the residents were African-American, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
"This defendant (Hernandez) oversaw a scheme designed to send African-American residents a potentially deadly message – you are not welcome here," The United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. Hernandez, in his plea agreement with prosecutors, admitted he directed the group's activities, giving his fellow gang members specific roles and providing them masks and a hammer to break windows.
The gang members smashed windows at four apartments and threw lit Molotov cocktails inside. Three of the four apartments were occupied by African-American residents, including children, who were sleeping. "As this successful prosecution clearly demonstrates, we simply will not tolerate acts of violence and hate calculated to deprive people of their civil rights," Hanna said.
Hernandez faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison when he appears before a judge on Oct. 7. Seven others who also were charged in the case have pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges and other criminal counts. They were scheduled to be sentenced later this year. No one was physically injured in the firebombing attacks, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2014.
(With inputs from agencies.)