A federal grand jury has indicted two members of the Compton 155 street gang on federal hate crime charges related to a racially motivated attack on four African-American juveniles at a residence in the city of Compton, Calif., on New Year’s Eve.
Jeffrey Aguilar, aka “Terco,” 19, and Efren Marquez Jr., who is also known as “Stretch” and “Junior,” 21, were named in a five-count indictment returned late yesterday by the grand jury.
The indictment specifically charges Aguilar and Marquez with one count of conspiracy to interfere with housing rights and four counts of interfering with housing rights. The indictment alleges that they attempted to intimidate African-Americans from living in Compton.
Aguilar and Marquez allegedly are members of the Compton 155 street gang, which uses violence and threats of violence in an effort to drive African-Americans out of their “territory” on the west side of Compton. According to the indictment, members of the Compton 155 gang often refer to themselves as “NK” or “N***** Killers.” To instill fear in African-Americans, members of the gang tag their gang moniker and “NK” throughout their “territory.”
“Hate-fueled crimes have no place in our society,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Andre Birotte Jr. “No one should have to look over their shoulder in fear because of who they are. Incidents like the one described in the federal indictment prove that we must remain vigilant to ensure that the rights of every single American resident are protected at all times.”
“The Civil Rights Division will continue to protect the right of every person who lives in this country to do so free of racially-based violence and intimidation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “The Justice Department will not tolerate those individuals or gangs who would prevent a family from living in a particular neighborhood simply because of their race or the color of their skin.”
The indictment specifically alleges that on Dec. 31, 2012, Aguilar, Marquez and a co-conspirator confronted an African-American juvenile, who was walking on a street in Compton, and threatened him by referring to themselves as “NKs.” The 17-year-old victim ran to his girlfriend’s house, where three other African-American juveniles were located. Aguilar and Marquez followed the 17-year-old victim to the home, yelled racial slurs at the four juveniles at the residence, and demanded that the African-Americans get out of the neighborhood. Aguilar and Marquez then allegedly assaulted the 17-year-old victim with a metal pipe and threatened another juvenile with a gun.
After the juveniles managed to escape and run into the house, the indictment alleges that Aguilar and Marquez left the scene and informed other gang members that the African-American juveniles lived in their “territory.” Shortly thereafter, Aguilar and approximately 15 other gang members went to the victims’ home and threatened them by yelling racial slurs and warning the juveniles that they did not belong in the neighborhood. During this time, a member of the gang smashed one of the windows of the house.
“The FBI is committed to the protection of civil liberties,” said Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “No one should tolerate violence based on the color of their skin or live in fear based on the hatred of others.”
“Hate crimes seriously threaten our society’s democratic principles and affect the entire community,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. “We had one hate crime in Compton for 2012, but one is too many. Tolerance is the key element of democracy.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Aguilar and Marquez had been in state custody on unrelated charges. They were transferred to federal custody early this morning and are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
If convicted, Aguilar and Marquez each would face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of the five civil rights charges alleged in the indictment.
The case against Aguilar and Marquez is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Reema El-Amamy of the Violent and Organized Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.