Latino Gang Charged With Racial Cleansing in California Town

ABC News

Law enforcement detains a suspected Azusa, gang member following an early-morning raid, at the Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, Calif., June 7, 2011. (Jason Redmond/AP Photo)

A Latino gang accused of attempting a racial cleansing of African Americans in Azusa, Calif., has been indicted for a federal rights conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Prior federal cases involving street gangs have included racial violence allegations, but this indictment is only the second time in history that federal civil rights laws have been used against members of a criminal street gang.

“Azusa 13 waged a campaign of hate against African Americans—a two-decade crime spree in which African-Americans were harassed and attacked,” said Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attoreny for the Central District of California.

A federal grand jury issued a 24-count indictment last week that charges the 51 defendants with a broad range of crimes including extortion, robbery and murder.

The three-year investigation of the Varrio Azusa 13 gang culminated this week in an early morning raid involving almost 400 law enforcement officials. Azusa is a city of 45,000 people located about 30 minutes northeast of Los Angeles. Only 3 percent of this population is African American, while over 65 percent is Hispanic.

“What is underlying this whole thing is a belief held by some people that the Mexican Mafia ordered essentially a racial cleansing in some Latino neighborhoods,” said Thom Mrozek, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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