Three East Los Angeles men Thursday agreed to plead guilty to federal hate crime charges in connection to the May 2014 firebombing of African-American residences at the Ramona Gardens Housing Development in Los Angeles, the Justice Department said.
Jose Saucedo, 24, Edwin Felix, 26, and Jonathan Portillo, 23, who prosecutors say are members of the Big Hazard street gang, admitted they targeted the apartments because of the residents’ race, according to court documents. The defendants agreed to plead guilty to using force to injure, intimidate and interfere with African-American residents because of their race and committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering.
Portillo also agreed to plead guilty to a charge of using a fire to commit a another federal felony. Saucedo and Felix agreed to plead guilty to a charge of attempted malicious damage of federal property through the use of fire, the Justice Department said.
Once the three defendants enter their guilty pleas, they each face potential sentences of over 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the three men were among eight Big Hazard gang members who smashed the windows of four apartments and threw lit Molotov cocktails into the residences on May 11, 2014. Three of the four targeted apartments were occupied by African-American families, including women and children, according to court documents.
“The defendants’ racially motivated and unprovoked attack on families sleeping peacefully in their homes caused fear and destruction,” said acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute violent acts of hate.”
Three other members of the Big Hazard gang who were charged in this case, Francisco Farias, 27, Joel Matthew Monarrez, 23, and Jose Zamora, 28, pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and related offenses, prosecutors said. Those defendants are awaiting sentencing.
The investigation into the firebombing is being conducted by agents and detectives with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.