Breves de la Comunidad

August 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LOS ÁNGELES

(CNS) – El segundo al mando de una pandilla callejera de Los Ángeles vinculada con la mafia mexicana que las autoridades federales dicen que aterrorizó a residentes del complejo residencial Ramona Gardens en Boyle Heights durante décadas fue sentenciado el lunes a casi 13 años de rejas.

Víctor “Grizzly” Barrios, de 43 años, fue sentenciado por la juez de distrito Christina Snyder a una pena de 155 meses de prisión, reducida de 180 meses por casi dos años bajo custodia federal después de su detención por cargos de conspiración y narcotráfico. Tras su liberación, será detenido por la Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas de los Estados Unidos y deportado a México, según documentos judiciales.

Barrios estaba entre casi tres docenas de miembros de la pandilla de Big Hazard acusados en diciembre de 2014 bajo la Ley Federal de Organizaciones Infectadas y Corruptas, que las autoridades federales de Los Ángeles han utilizado con éxito durante décadas para luchar contra las pandillas de las prisiones y las pandillas callejeras.

 

LOS ÁNGELES

(CNS) – Un par de agentes del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles fueron absueltos el lunes de conspirar para obstruir la justicia en relación con un accidente de DUI hace dos años, pero los miembros del jurado quedaron estancados en un cargo alegando que uno de los oficiales presentó un informe policial falso sobre la colisión.

Los jurados deliberaron dos días antes de condenar a Rene Marcial Ponce, de 40 años, e Irene Gómez, de 39 años, de un delito grave de conspiración para obstruir la justicia.

Gómez también fue absuelto de un delito grave de presentar un informe policial falso. Los jurados bloquearon 8-4 a favor de absolver a Ponce del mismo cargo, de acuerdo con Greg Risling de la Oficina del Fiscal del Condado de Los Ángeles.

 

LOS ÁNGELES

(CNS) – Lo que pudo haber sido una disputa entre un trabajador de un restaurante del sur de Los Ángeles y un cliente termino en un tiroteo el lunes, dejando a dos hombres dentro del restaurante con lesiones que no amenazan la vida.

El tiroteo fue reportado a las 415 p.m. en el bloque 800 del este de la avenida Manchester, entre la avenida Central y el boulevard Avalon, dijo el portavoz del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles, Mike López.

Según el Comandante de Vigilancia en la estación de la calle 77 del LAPD, testigos dijeron que un cliente discutió con un empleado en la cocina de Carolyn, luego se fue, pero regreso y disparo al empleado, quien se armó y disparó también.

Las víctimas estaban dentro del restaurante cuando fueron heridos, dijo la policía.

Un empleado del restaurante le dijo a NBC4 que las dos víctimas eran trabajadores del restaurante, y el tiroteo fue provocado por una discusión entre tres personas en el restaurante.

No hubo informes de arrestos.

Eastside Gang ‘Shot-Caller’ Sentenced to Prison

August 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The second-in-command of a Mexican Mafia-linked East Los Angeles street gang that federal authorities say terrorized residents of the Ramona Gardens housing complex in Boyle Heights for decades was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 13 years behind bars.

Victor “Grizzly” Barrios, 43, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder to a 155-month prison term, reduced from 180 months to account for about two years served in federal custody following his arrest on conspiracy and drug trafficking charges. Upon release, he will be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported to Mexico, according to court papers.

Barrios was among nearly three-dozen members of the Big Hazard gang indicted in December 2014 under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, which federal authorities in Los Angeles have successfully used for decades to battle prison gangs and street gangs.

The initial indictment outlines alleged criminal acts dating back to 2007, including drug deals, intimidation, violence against people believed to have cooperated with law enforcement, illegal weapons sales and threats against black residents of Ramona Gardens, including tagging with phrases such as “no blacks.”

The Hazard gang takes its name from a park near Ramona Gardens and is believed to have around 350 members.

In a letter to the court, Barrios acknowledged his “unwise choices,” and the former gang shot-caller admitted that he alone is responsible for his actions.

Barrios said that prior to his arrest, he spent three years with Father Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries, learning how to be a pastry chef. He told the judge that he had enrolled in an internship program at Bouchon, chef Thomas Keller’s French bistro in Beverly Hills.

“Not only did I learn the art of bread baking, but I was given the chance to work as an extra in a couple of TV series,” Barrios wrote.

According to the indictment, Barrios’ gang distributes methamphetamine, PCP, crack cocaine, heroin and other controlled substances in neighborhoods it controls.

Gang members are known to “advertise” their criminal acts by shouting references to their gang before or during a crime to cause fear, the indictment said. Hazard-related symbols are used in tagging throughout the neighborhood.

Prosecutors say the gang uses murder, assault and threats to keep its members, associates and other Latino gangs in line. The Mexican Mafia authorizes the gang to carry out the attacks, federal authorities said.

The lead defendant in the 45-count indictment is Manuel “Cricket” Larry Jackson, a Mexican Mafia member who allegedly oversees the activities of the Hazard gang.

The indictment alleges that under Jackson’s control, the gang commits a wide variety of crimes, most significantly drug trafficking, which generates revenues through the sale of narcotics and the “taxing” of drug dealers who operate in Hazard territory. Some of the revenues generated through “taxes” or “rent” are funneled back to Jackson and other members of the Mexican Mafia, according to the government.

Jackson is awaiting trial in Los Angeles federal court in two separate cases.

Families Fear Missing Ramona Gardens Teens Could Be Suicidal

July 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two teenagers who went missing Wednesday in Boyle Heights and were feared to be suicidal have been found unharmed, police said early this morning.

Police said the teens were together and  identified them as 14-year-old Adrian Gonzalez and 15-year-old Jaylin Mazariegos,.

No one saw either teen leave home, according to the Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Division.

Jaylin was last seen about 6:15 a.m. in the 2600 block of Alcazar Street, police said.

“When her mother returned later in the day, she discovered that Jaylin, some clothing and her black BMX bike were missing,” according to a police statement.

Adrian was last seen about 7:30 a.m. in the 1300 block of De Neve Lane, police said.

“His mother returned later in the day and discovered that Adrian was missing along with some clothing and his red and black bicycle,” according to the LAPD. “Adrian and Jaylin are believed to be together

“They made statements on their Instragram accounts indicating a desire to leave Los Angeles by train. They made additional statements on Instragram that have caused their families to be concerned about their state of mind and their safety.”

Some of those messages made references to “Romeo and Juliet,” causing family members to fear they could be suicidal, reported the KNX 1070 radio station.

The teens were found safe about 12:30 a.m. in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, according to the LAPD. They were brought to the Hollenbeck station to be reunited with their families, police said.

Update 7/20/17 to include LAPD announcement that the teens were found unharmed.

LAPD Attempts to Improve Trust in Boyle Heights

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A rash of officer-involved-shootings targeting Latinos and African Americans has sparked calls for greater transparency in police use of force incidents in the Los Angeles Police Department. Calls for better training of police officers working in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, where the recent fatal police shooting of a teenager sparked protests and a lawsuit by the victim’s family, are also on the rise.

The relationship between Los Angeles police and the city’s Eastside community is complicated. It’s been that way for generations.

At the Ramona Gardens pubic housing complex in Boyle Heights, for example, police for years were seen more as an occupying force than protectors against the gang-related crime and violence that has plagued the area for decades. Residents complained that LAPD’s “heavy hand” and “racial profiling” had led to many young Latinos being wrongly incarcerated, beaten or shot.

“People had a very negative image of the police,” recalls Sister Mary Catherine Antczak, principal at nearby Santa Teresita School.

On Tuesday, the L.A. Police Commission moved to require police officers to undergo “reality-based” training on a regular basis. Commission President Matt Johnson said he wants more training that “takes officers out of the classrooms, away from the computer” and puts them into “real-life interactive scenarios,” in hopes of de-escalating volatile situations.

A memorial is set up in Boyle Heights at the location where a 14-year-old was shot by an LAPD officer.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A memorial is set up in Boyle Heights at the location where a 14-year-old was shot by an LAPD officer. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For one group of LAPD officers, positive involvement with Ramona Gardens residents is how they hope to combat years of distrust and de-escalate conflicts.

“Believe it or not, most people here like us,” Officer Rivas told EGP on Monday.

Rivas is one of 10 officers in LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) unit based out of the Hollenbeck Station and exclusively assigned to Ramona Gardens. Since 2011, the unit’s mission has been to improve community relations while reducing crime. Their efforts have focused on providing services to steer children in the low-income housing complex away from the entrenched Hazard Gang that has for generations called the area home.

“We are here to break that cycle,” says Rivas.

After their daily patrols, officers return to the community to coach after school youth programs, including football, baseball, boxing and folklorico dancing. The officers also host community events and chaperone field trips to sporting events, theme parks and museums.

At first, parents, some of them former gang members, were hesitant to interact with the officers or to allow their children to participate in activities. It was hard to get past their views of abuse, excessive force and racial profiling by the LAPD in their own backyard.

Over the last five years however, may parents have experienced a change of heart and over 100 children ages 6 to 19 now participate in programs offered by CSP, according to Rivas.

“The greatest measure of trust is that these parents let the police interact with their children,” Sister Antczak points out.

Three of Rudy Espinoza’s children participate in the program. He’s lived in Ramona Gardens all his life and recalls that there was a time when he never would have thought of approaching a patrol car, let alone allowing his children to regularly interact with police officers.

“The kids feel safe in their presence,” he now acknowledges. “[The program] has built trust, specially for the younger generation,” he told EGP Monday.

Alejandro Cruz, 14, told EGP he reluctantly joined CSP programs when he was 8-years-old.

“At first I did not trust them,” he said. “But my mother knew at a certain age gangs would try to recruit me,” he explained.

Since then, Cruz has joined the running club, football team and taken trips to Dodgers games and Knott’s Berry Farm with the officers.

“They have motivated me and inspired me to move out of the projects and get more out of life,” says the Cathedral High School student.

Many single mothers in the area rely on the programs, explains Sister Antczek.

Our officers at times serve as father figures to the children, adds Officer Rivas.

“We tell them ‘it’s not where you live, it’s what you do with your life’” that matters, he explains.

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Instead of fearing or running from police as they did in the past, Antczak tells EGP she now often sees people, including children, willingly approach officers patrolling the area.

She recalled an occasion when she grew concerned because she saw two eighth-grade students run off during a religious event, but to her surprise, they’d actually taken off to say hello to the local police officers, and were smiling and laughing when she found them.

“Who would believe that when young teenagers see the police they would be running towards them?”

But not everyone feels the same or sees interactions with the LAPD in such a positive light.

Many local activists still distrust the police and point to recent fatal encounters as proof that there is a long way to go before they’ll believe things have changed.

Two months ago, 14-year-old Jesse Romero was shot by a police officer in Boyle Heights during a foot chase. Already reeling from news of police shootings of African Americans and riots in other parts of the country, local activists were outraged that a vandalism call had ended with police shooting and killing the teenager. Protests and demands for justice have been ongoing.

There are conflicting reports about whether Romero shot at police officers; one witness claims the teen threw the gun at a fence, which inadvertently released a gunshot.

Longtime community activist Carlos Montes has been advocating against excessive use of force by the LAPD for years, most recently helping to organize protests in response to the shooting of Romero and others in recent months.

These days it’s hard to gauge whether the relationship between the LAPD and the community has really improved, he told EGP, pointing out that there have been five officer-involved shootings in Boyle Heights since February.

“There are police officers that want to kill and they want to shoot,” he claims. “There is a systematic problem…when is the last time a police officer got prosecuted for murder,” he said, showing that there are still those who don’t trust that justice will ever be served when it comes to cases involving excessive use of force by police.

Montes maintain CSP is just another LAPD “public relations” effort that does not address the core problem.

“Ramona Gardens has had a long history of police brutality and police killings,” Montes said. “They [LAPD] need too stop killing people and stop targeting blacks and browns.”

For the 14-year-old Cruz, police-involved shootings are a concern. He told EGP that when tragic officer-involved shootings take place, especially those involving LAPD, he will ask the officers he knows to explain what happened.

In his view, the LAPD has changed Ramona Gardens for the better. He says parents no longer fear letting their children play outside, something he was not allowed to do when he first moved there.

“It still looks scary, but it feels safer,” he said.

The positive interactions between the officers and children through CSP have also slowly started to change the way their parents view the LAPD presence in Ramona Gardens.

“The kids are ambassadors in some ways,” points out Sister Antczak. “With everything being said about police officers, this program is the way to build trust.”

 

Programa del LAPD Cultiva Confianza En Ramona Gardens

October 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Un brote de tiroteos, involucrando a oficiales de la policía y dirigidos hacia los latinos y afro americanos, han provocado un llamado para mayor transparencia en el uso de fuerza del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles (LAPD). Imploraciones a que se mejoren los entrenamientos de los oficiales, quienes trabajan en vecindarios como Boyle Heights, lugar donde recientemente murió un adolescente tiroteado por la policía, también han incrementado. Esto, ha causado protestas y hasta una demanda de parte de la familia de la victima.

La relación entre la policía de Los Ángeles y la comunidad del este de la ciudad es complicada, siendo así por generaciones.

Por ejemplo, en Ramona Gardens, complejo de viviendas públicas en Boyle Heights, los policías han sido vistos más como una potencia invasora en vez de ser vistos como protectores del crimen pandillero y la violencia que ha plagado el área por décadas. Los residentes se quejan de que el uso de la “mano dura” y de las “caracterizaciones raciales” del LAPD han causado a que varios jóvenes latinos hayan sido golpeados, encarcelados o tiroteados erróneamente.

“La gente tiene una imagen bien negativa de la policía”, dijo la hermana Mary Catherine Antczak, directora de la escuela cercana, Santa Teresita.

El martes, la Comisión de Policía de Los Ángeles decidió requerirle a sus oficiales a que regularmente tomen un entrenamiento “basado en la realidad”. Matt Johnson, presidente de la comisión, dijo que quiere más entrenamientos que saquen a los oficiales de las aulas, alejados de las computadoras”, y que los pongan en “escenarios de la vida real” con la esperanza de que esto apacigüe las situaciones precarias.

Para uno de los oficiales del LAPD, este involucramiento positivo con los residentes de Ramona Gardens es como él piensa combatir los años de desconfianza y aliviar la tensión.

“Aunque no lo crea, la gente aquí nos quiere”, le dijo el oficial Rivas a EGP el lunes.

Rivas es uno de los 10 oficiales parte de la unidad, LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP), basada en la estación de Hollenbeck y exclusivamente asignada a Ramona Gardens. Desde el 2011, la misión de la unidad ha sido mejorar las relaciones entre la comunidad y reducir el crimen. Sus esfuerzos se han enfocado en proveer servicios para apartar a los niños, de los complejos de viviendas de bajos recursos, de la Pandilla Hazard, quien por generaciones ha llamado al área su hogar.

“Estamos aquí para romper el ciclo” dijo Rivas.

Después de sus patrullas diarias, los oficiales regresan a la comunidad a entrenar a los niños en programas extracurriculares. Estos incluyen programas de fútbol americano, béisbol, boxeo y danzas folclóricas. Los oficiales también planifican eventos comunitarios y sirven como chaperónes en excursiones a eventos deportivos, parques de atracciones y a museos.

A principio, los padres, algunos de ellos ex pandilleros, estaban inseguros en relacionarse con los oficiales y mucho más de permitir que sus hijos participaran en las actividades. Fue difícil superar sus impresiones del LAPD de abuso, fuerza excesiva y caracterizaciones raciales que habían visto en su propio territorio.

Sin embargo, durante los últimos cinco años, varios padres han tenido un cambio de actitud y más de 100 niños entre las edades de 6 a 19 participan actualmente en los programas ofrecidos por el CSP, de acuerdo a Rivas.

“La mayor demostración de confianza es que los padres les permitan a los oficiales el interactuar con sus hijos”, señaló la hermana Antczak.

Tres de los hijos de Rudy Espinoza participan en el programa. Él ha vivido en Ramona Gardens toda su vida y recuerda que había un tiempo en el que nunca se podría haber acercado a una patrulla, mucho menos dejar que sus hijos interactuaran con los policías.

“Los niños se sienten seguros en su presencia”, el admite ahora. “[El programa] ha establecido confianza, especialmente entre las generaciones jóvenes”, le dijo a EGP el lunes.

Alejandro Cruz, de 14 años le dijo a EGP que él se unió al programa de mala gana cuando tenía 8 años.

“Al principio, no les tenía confianza”, dijo él. “Pero mi mamá sabía de que iba a llegar la hora en que las pandillas iban a intentar reclutarme”, explicó.

Desde entonces, Cruz se ha unido al club de corredores, el de fútbol americano y ha asistido a juegos de los Dodgers y también ha visitado a Knott’s Berry Farm con los oficiales.

“Me han motivado e inspirado a mudarme fuera de los proyectos [de residencia pública] y sacarle más a la vida”, dijo el estudiante de Cathedral High School.

Varias madres solteras en el área también se amparan en los programas, explica la hermana Antczak.

Nuestros oficiales a veces sirven como figuras paternas para los niños, agregó el oficial Rivas.

“Les decimos, ‘no es en dónde vives sino lo que decides hacer con tu vida’ que importa”, explicó.

En lugar de tener temor de huir de la policía, como lo hicieron en el pasado, Antczak le dijo a EGP que ahora ve frecuentemente a las personas, incluyendo a los niños, acercándoseles voluntariamente a los oficiales que patrullan el vecindario.

Ella recuerda una vez que se preocupó porque vio a dos niños de octavo grado corriéndose de un evento religioso, pero a su sorpresa, lo hacían para ir a saludar a los oficiales locales y estaban carcajeándose cuando los encontraron.

“Quien hubiera pensado de que estos jóvenes, al ver a la policía corrieran hacia ellos?”

No obstante, no todos piensan de la misma manera o ven las interacciones con el LAPD con buenos ojos.

Varios activistas locales todavía desconfían en la policía y señalan a los recientes encuentros como prueba de que todavía hay un largo camino por recorrer antes de que crean que las cosas han cambiado.

Dos meses atrás, Jesse Romero, un adolescente de 14 años fue tiroteado por oficiales policiales en Boyle Heights durante una persecución a pie. Conmovidos por las noticias de encuentros policiales con afro americanos y protestas en otras partes del país, activistas locales se indignaron que una llamada reportando vandalismo acabara en un tiroteo y en la muerte de un joven. Protestas y demandas para la justicia siguen en marcha por los hechos.

Hay informes contradictorios acerca de que si Romero le disparó a los oficiales ya que un testigo asegura de que el joven tiró una pistola por encima de un cerca, la cual se disparó inadvertidamente.

Carlos Montes, activista de la comunidad por varios años, ha estado luchando contra el uso excesivo de fuerza por el LAPD y recientemente ayudó a organizar varias protestas en respuesta a la muerte de Romero.

Actualmente, es difícil evaluar si las relaciones entre el LAPD y la comunidad han mejorado realmente, le dijo a EGP, señalando que han habido cinco tiroteos involucrando a oficiales en Boyle Heights desde febrero.

“Hay policías que quieren matar y quieren disparar”, asegura él. “Hay un problema sistemático…cuándo fue la última vez que un policía fue procurado por asesinato?”, preguntó, demostrando que aun existen aquellos que desconfían que la justicia llegue en los casos de brutalidad policial.

Montes mantiene que el CSP es solamente un esfuerzo de “relaciones públicas” del LAPD para no discutir el problema central.

“Ramona Garden ha tenido un historial de brutalidad policial y de muertes de policías”, Montes dijo. “Ellos [el LAPD] necesitan dejar de matar a la gente y de apuntarles a los afro americanos y latinos”.

A Cruz, el joven de 14 años, le preocupan los tiroteos involucrando a la policía. Él le dijo a EGP que cuando esos incidentes ocurren, él les pide a los oficiales que le expliquen lo que pasó. De su punto de vista, el LAPD ha mejorado a Ramona Gardens. Él dice que los padres ya no tienen temor de dejar que sus hijos jueguen afuera, algo que no era permitido hacer cuando ellos llegaron al área.

“Se ve peligroso pero se siente más seguro”, él dijo.

Las interacciones positivas entre los oficiales y los niños, por medio del CSP, también han cambiado lentamente la percepción de los padres hacia la policía en Ramona Gardens.

“Los niños son embajadores, en cierta manera”, dijo la hermana Antczak. “Con todo lo que se ha dicho de los oficiales, este programa es la manera de construir la confianza”.

Seven Men Charged in 2014 Ramona Gardens Hate Crime

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Seven Los Angeles men were charged in a federal indictment with firebombing the homes of black residents in the Boyle Heights area two years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendants’ Latino gang territory, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The men were named in an indictment handed down June 22 and unsealed Thursday. They were charged in connection with the May 12, 2014, firebombings in the Ramona Gardens housing project.

Prosecutors said 31-year-old Carlos Hernandez led a meeting of fellow gang members in early May 2014, when they plotted to hurl Molotov cocktails into units at Ramona Gardens, with the plan aimed at getting “the (N-words) out of the neighborhood.”

Hernandez and the other defendants met again on May 11, 2014, and Hernandez distributed materials to be used during the firebombings, including disguises and gloves, prosecutors said.

“The defendants used firebombs to drive the victims from their homes because of their race,” according to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney
General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society.”

The firebombings were carried out shortly after midnight on May 12, 2014. Fire officials said at the time there were no injuries, and only “minimal damage” was reported.

In addition to Hernandez, the federal indictment also names Jose Saucedo, 22; Francisco Farias, 25; Joseue Garibay, 23; Edwin Felix, 23;
Jonathan Portillo, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, 21. They were all charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights; conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony; attempted arson of federal property; using fire and carrying explosives to commit another federal felony; aiding and abetting; and violent crime in aid of racketeering and interference with housing rights.

Hernandez and Farias were also charged with possessing, using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. Felix was also charged with
making a false statement to the FBI.

Saucedo, Garibay, Portillo and Monarrez are facing up to 110 years in prison if convicted. Hernandez and Farias face up to life in prison, and Felix faces up to 115 years.

Farias, Felix, Garibay, Portillo and Monarrez are scheduled to make their initial court appearances in downtown Los Angeles Thursday afternoon.

Hernandez and Saucedo are in state custody and expected to be transferred to federal detention next month.

“I am very proud of the partnerships between our agencies that enabled us to investigate and apprehend these violent offenders who preyed upon our community in a manner that will not be tolerated,” Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said.

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