In a murderous quest aimed at “cleansing” their turf of snitches and rival gangsters, members of one of Los Angeles County’s most vicious Latino gangs sometimes killed people just because of their race, an investigation found.
There were even instances in which Florencia 13 leaders ordered killings of black gangsters and then, when the intended victim couldn’t be located, said “Well, shoot any black you see,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said.
“In certain cases some murders were just purely motivated on killing a black person,” Baca said.
Authorities say there were 20 murders among more than 80 shootings documented during the gang’s rampage in the hardscrabble Florence-Firestone neighborhood, exceptional even in an area where gang violence has been commonplace for decades. They don’t specify the time frame or how many of the killings were racial.
Los Angeles has struggled with gang violence for years, especially during the wars in the late 1980s and early ‘90s between the Crips and the Bloods—both black gangs. Latino gangs have gained influence since then as the Hispanic population surged.
Evidence of Florencia 13, or F13, is easy to find in Florence-Firestone. Arrows spray-painted on the wall of a liquor store mark the gang’s boundary and graffiti warns rivals to steer clear.
F13 isn’t the only Latino gang linked to racial killings. Last year, four members of The Avenues, a gang from the Highland Park area east of downtown Los Angeles, were convicted of hate crimes for killing a black man in what prosecutors called a campaign to drive blacks from that neighborhood.
And last January, authorities announced a crackdown on the 204th Street gang following the killing of a 14-year-old black girl.
The violence goes both ways, said Adam Torres, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department gang detective whose beat includes Florence-Firestone.
During a recent patrol on the east side of the neighborhood, he pointed to a cinderblock wall peppered with bullet holes. Torres said the Crips still control that area and any Hispanic there is at risk of being shot.