Sunday, February 25, 2007

Los Angeles gang war fueled by race

The Latino gang members were looking for someone black, anyone black, to shoot. They found Cheryl Green, 14, an eighth grader, chatting with friends.

The February murder stands out in a wave of bias-related attacks. Violence in Los Angeles grew at an alarming rate last year, continuing a trend of more Latino versus black. Blacks complain that illegal Latin American immigrants are stealing jobs. Latinos, particularly newcomers unaccustomed to living among large numbers of African-Americans, in turn accuse blacks of criminal activity and harassing them.

In November, three Latino gang members were sentenced to life in federal prison for crimes including the murder of two black men — one waiting for a bus, another searching for a parking spot.

In Harbor Gateway, where Cheryl Green was killed, tension had grown so severe that blacks and Latinos formed a dividing line on a street that both sides understood never to cross. A small market was unofficially declared off-limits to blacks. A man who described himself as a former member of the local Latino gang said black gang members had shot or assaulted Latinos, too, and explained the violence as a deadly tit-for-tat.

Two Latino gang members have been charged with the murder of Cheryl Green.

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