August 20 LAWFUEL – Best of the Net for legal news, law news, law articles Four Latino gang members from the Highland Park area of Los Angeles have been
indicted on federal civil rights and firearm charges in connection with violent
assaults against African-Americans, including one man who was gunned down in 1999.
The four defendants were named in a three-count indictment returned on August 11 by
a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. The case was announced today after one of the
defendants was taken into custody by special agents from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation SWAT team. Two other defendants are already in state prison serving
sentences on unrelated crimes, and an arrest warrant has been issued for the fourth
The four defendants allegedly are members of the Avenues 43 street gang, which is a
“clique” or “set” of the larger Avenues gang. The indictment alleges that they
conspired with each other and with other gang members to violate the civil rights
of African-Americans in the neighborhood claimed by the gang.
The conspiracy charge, which is count one of the indictment, alleges that the
defendants, as part of the conspiracy, murdered Kenneth Kurry Wilson, a 38-year-old
African-American man who was fatally shot in Highland Park on April 18, 1999. The
second count of the indictment alleges that the defendants murdered Wilson because
he was African-American and because he was using the public streets of Los Angeles.
The final count of the indictment charges all four defendants with using a firearm
during the commission of the federal conspiracy and hate crime charges.
The defendants in this case are:
* Gilbert Saldana, 26, an alleged triggerman in the murder of Wilson, who is
currently serving a life sentence in state prison for another murder.
* Merced Cambero, 26, the second alleged triggerman in the murder of Wilson, for
whom an arrest warrant has been issued, but who has not yet been arrested;
* Alejandro Martinez, 27, who was arrested this morning; and
* Fernando Cazares, 24, who is currently serving a 34-month sentence in state prison
on various unrelated charges.
* Because the indictment contains the allegation of Wilson’s murder, all four
defendants could face the death penalty.
* “As someone who has lived near this neighborhood, I have seen firsthand the
impact of gang crimes in Highland Park,” said United States Attorney Debra W. Yang.
“The Avenues gang has terrorized Highland Park for too long. The defendants named in
the indictment, all members of that gang, are accused of committing one of the most
heinous crimes – murdering someone simply because of his skin color – and we will
prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. This office will not tolerate any
violent act committed on a person because of his or her race.”
* Richard Garcia, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field
Office, said “Kenneth Kurry Wilson’s pursuit of happiness was cut short at the age
of 38 simply because he was black and used the streets of Los Angeles. The FBI and
our law enforcement counterparts will not tolerate this kind of senseless violence
and remain devoted to the protection of every citizen’s civil rights.”
* An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every
defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable
* This case was investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department and
is being prosecuted by attorneys from the Civil Rights Section of the United States
Attorneys Office in Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of