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Task force arrests 38 in connection with killings in South L.A. gang war

Los Angeles Sheriff Jim McDonnell discusses a task force — made up of L.A. police, sheriff's officials, prosecutors and the U.S. Marshals Service — focused on quelling gang violence in the Vermont Corridor. Thirty-eight people have been arrested in connection with the case.
(Michael Owen Baker / For the Times)

Authorities have arrested more than three dozen people linked to a trio of feuding gangs in South L.A. whose violence led to at least nine killings and other retaliatory attacks, officials said Monday.

For more than a year, a task force of local and federal investigators has focused on quelling what authorities described as a violent gang war in the Vermont Corridor, a four-mile stretch that runs along Vermont Avenue. The violence stemmed from an alliance between two gangs targeting a third, authorities said.

On Monday, officials said 38 people have been arrested in connection with the killings and other assaults. The arrests dealt the gangs a “severe blow,” Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.

“The recklessness of these brazen murders and assaults shook the community to the core,” he said. “Residents did not feel safe enough to leave their own homes.”

One of the homicides linked to the feud was last summer’s killing of Kenneth Peevy, gunned down in a yard along West 109th Street. The 27-year-old’s death and a string of shootings that followed stirred fear in South Los Angeles as rumors spread that a gang had vowed 100 days of violence in retaliation. Alarming hashtags, including #100days100nights and #PrayforLA, circulated social media.

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LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Scott cautioned Monday that investigators never found proof of a pledge of 100 days of violence, saying the rumors became “somewhat of an urban legend.”

Instead, he said, the shootings that people saw on the street stemmed from traditional, retaliatory gang violence that was already happening.

“The actual murder of Kenneth Peevy was a part of our investigation in terms of trying to link everything together and really paint a bigger picture of what was going on,” Scott said. “The violence was very real, don’t get me wrong. It was very real. But the 100 days thing is something that took on a life of its own.”

McDonnell said the crimes linked to the gangs targeted by the task force included the March 2015 killing of a man working on his car in an AutoZone parking lot, a shooting last summer that killed a 24-year-old man and wounded three others, and another shooting that injured a victim who wasn’t affiliated with any gangs but lived in an area claimed by one.

Prosecutors have charged 29 people in connection with the investigation, according to the district attorney’s office. Those charges include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and shooting at an occupied vehicle.

The investigation is ongoing, McDonnell said.

Gang-intervention workers said gangs weren’t the only source of crime in the Vermont Corridor. To curb overall crime in the area, they said, the city should better invest in the people who live there by bringing in more youth programs, job opportunities or chances to talk to the police at town hall meetings.

“It’s kind of a hot area altogether,” said Ben “Taco” Owens, who heads a team of gang-intervention workers in the neighborhood. “The perception of the community is nothing has changed much.”

kate.mather@latimes.com

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

For more crime news from Southern California, follow us on Twitter: @katemather and @nicolesantacruz

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UPDATES:

4:15 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Ben “Taco” Owens, a gang intervention worker.

This story was originally published at 2:30 p.m.


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