In 1996 tensions erupted when members of a gang associated with East Coast Crips, known as the 6-5 Hustlers, killed a Florencia member.
But the fighting resumed when word, perhaps mythical, spread about the East Coast Crips' drug rip-off of Florencia 13.
Race, gang rivalry and drugs have become impossibly tangled as motives in killings and assaults in the neighborhood, authorities and residents say. The result: a gangland version of racial profiling.
"They just see a young man of the opposite race and they shoot," said Olivia Rosales, a former hate-crime prosecutor, who prosecuted all the East Coast-Florencia murder cases for the last two years. "They don't stop to question whether or not they are a member of the gang."
Of the 20 cases she prosecuted, said Rosales, who now runs the district attorney's Whittier office, "most of the victims have not been members of the rival gang."
Demetrius Perry, 22, was shot to death by Latinos yelling a gang epithet as he played basketball in January at Drew Middle School, witnesses said.
"We used to kick it with" Latinos, said Perry's father, Benny, who is black and grew up in the area. "Now you constantly hear about it: This is their land first and they've come to take it back."
Timothy Slack, who lives a few blocks from Great Hope Fellowship church, said Latino gang members often drive by shooting at blacks. He doesn't allow his kids to go to the store and he never uses alleys anymore.
Slack grew up in Florence-Firestone when it was mostly black and had few Latinos.
Back then, "they were timid," he said. "But as their numbers started getting bigger, then they started trying to be tougher. They started thinking they could demand stuff."
But non-gang-affiliated Latinos have also been killed.
In 2005, Alejandro Barrales was on his way to work at his family's restaurant when he was shot to death allegedly by Crips while in his car at a stop sign.
Gabino Lopez, 52, was killed that year while walking to a mini-market for a beer after work. A youth who reportedly wanted to join the Crips is charged with his killing.
In the neighborhood where Lopez was killed, people no longer sit outside in the evening, said his daughter, Mayra Lopez.
"You never know when you're going to be the next target," she said.
Economy looking up
All of this comes as Florence-Firestone is beginning to rebound from a prolonged economic depression that began with the Watts riots in 1965. For years after, say longtime residents, no new housing or commercial development was built.
Today, a new shopping center is going in at Alameda Street and Florence Avenue, and rows of town houses are rising on Gage Avenue.