A 25-year-old man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for a 2014 firebombing attack on black residents at a Boyle Heights housing project.
Jose “Lil’ Moe” Saucedo is the first of eight gang members of the Big Hazard street gang to be sentenced after pleading guilty last year to federal hate crimes that targeted black families who lived inside the Ramona Gardens development. The racially motivated attack occurred the night of Mother’s Day in 2014. The men of the Latino gang, which originated in Boyle Heights, claimed the area as their territory and attempted to provoke some of the 23 black families who lived there to flee.
The attack had been discussed earlier that May. Purported ringleader, Carlos Hernandez, 34, informed gang members that they would use Molotov cocktails to firebomb apartments. Hernandez, who was the last defendant to plead guilty in April, said the order came from members of the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang that controls several Latino gangs in Southern California.
The men broke the windows of four apartments and threw lit explosives inside. Black families lived in three of the four apartments, prosecutors said.
“It was a miracle that no one was injured in these racially motivated attacks,” U.S. Atty. Nicola T. Hanna said. “These defendants have admitted their goal was to drive African Americans out of this housing facility. This simply will not be tolerated, and we will take any and all steps necessary to protect the civil rights of every person who lives in the United States.”
The attack came 15 years after the street gang unleashed a similar attack on black residents in the neighborhood in an effort to push them out. In the years since, African Americans had started moving back into an area where peace was nearly restored. The 2014 attack upended that progress.
Seven remaining gang members will be sentenced later this year, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
City News Service contributed to this report.