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Nationally recognized 'gang peacemaker' arrested in gang sweep [Updated]

Sanchez A nationally recognized anti-gang leader was among those named in a federal indictment targeting several Mara Salvatrucha gang members who authorities said today have been involved in multiple slayings, extortion and assaults.

Alex Sanchez, executive director of Homies Unidos, was taken into custody by FBI agents this morning at his Bellflower home. Sanchez and several members of MS-13, one of the nation's most ruthless and notorious gangs, were named as a co-conspirators in the indictment, which will be unsealed later today, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

The indictment alleges that the gang terrorized the Lafayette Park area west of downtown Los Angeles.

The case of Sanchez, who admitted being a member of the MS-13 gang as a youth but said he had sworn off the gang lifestyle, became a cause celebre early in the decade when authorities attempted to deport the self-described gang peacemaker.

In 1994, Sanchez was deported to his home country of El Salvador because of a decade-old auto-theft conviction and a subsequent parole violation for possessing a firearm. A year later, he returned illegally to the U.S. and eventually helped form the local chapter of Homies Unidos.

Sanchez was granted political asylum after successfully arguing that he might be killed if he was returned to El Salvador because of his links to the Salvadoran gang and his stand against police corruption. Sanchez said he was a victim of harassment by the Los Angeles Police Department, and his case was highlighted by police critics during the Rampart corruption scandal.

[Updated at 3:15 p.m: A previous version of this post indicated Sanchez was granted asylum because of harassment by the Police Department.]

Among those who championed Sanchez's cause was former state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), who befriended Sanchez in the 1990s and testified on his behalf.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

Photo: Alex Sanchez in 2000 at the INS center in San Pedro. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (57)

This guy proves that if your brown or black, you can get away with anything, just by blaming the police. Police have their problems, but sometimes, if the police think you're a dirtbag....youre actually a dirtbag. Like this guy.

This guy is a criminal. Dont put him in jail. And dont send him back to El Salvador, he'll just sneak back in. Try something new. Stick him in the middle of the Death Valley, with no water. He should be used to walking across the desert. AFter all he did sneak back in ILLEGALY, he should be used to it.

Tom Hayden has been supporting urban terrorists all his life. Nice one, Tom.

What a joke, a man that admitted being a member of the most ruthless gang we know of and now faces charges of multiple slayings, extortion and assaults, used the excuse that the Los Angeles Police Department had harassed him to remain in this country. Tom Hayden should be named in the indictment for standing up for this gang member. If guilty I hope he he is sentenced to death for the death of the Los Angeles police detective.

Tom Hayden? Another lib stumping for illegal criminals. Why wont they ever learn...

This guy is a criminal. always has been always will be. Were all better off without Homies United. This guy fooled the media into thinking he was A-OK. But he still was a criminal dressed in self righteous clothes. And he used this seeming legal org. to commit further criminal acts. Close down homies untied. Its time we stopped pussyfooting around people jsut because they have a dark complexion

Good! Get this crap off the streets for good!

Silly to think that he actually left MS-13! Silly court to have overturned the deportation and let him stay in the country AFTER he had re-entered illegally! Silly Tom Hayden! Why must we spend tax dollars prosecuting and incarcerating these vicious criminals? I say send them back to their country of origin to rot in their jails! Enough of this!!!! And this is coming from a self-described latino lefty liberal! I am so tired of politicians in general and Latino politicians in particular who don't have the guts to say no to illegal immigration, no to gangs, no to lawlessness because they fear losing face with their latino constituents.

Wow, I guess this is what the Drean act is for. Rewarding crime..

Ho hum. The only ones shocked are those that haven't been reading the paper for YEARS. It's old news that the government is paying "former" gang members to do "outreach". Yes, your tax dollars are funding gang crime and killings. Disgusting and stupid, but no one really cares.

This guy fooled everybody. LAPD can't touch him but the FBI can. Moving towards 3rd world status.

We do not assume guilt just because someone has been indicted. Many innocent persons have been indicted in history, so I urge everyone not to jump to conclusions. In this case the criminal justice system might have ulterior motives to prosecute Alex Sanchez. Be skeptical!

As a latino, I find this infuriating. Do libs really think we support scumbags like this? I got news for you democrats-we are more mainstream than you give us credit for. Just because some loudmouths picket the cause du jour does not mean they speak for all of us. Don't drink the bong water Tom. The politics of victimology are over.

hahahahaha, they had his title wrong from the beginning, it should have been: "Director of Executions" instead of "Executive Director....

Tom Hayden strikes again!

i just feel bad for homies unidos

My, that's quite a conviction in the press with such a wave of racist kneejerking.

Damn! Can we even wait for the official statements or EVIDENCE! After all, this is AMERICA. It's obivious why some of you have "jumped the gun" on this matter. Yes... if he is involved, he deserve anything he has coming. But to read some of these comments is really sad. The amount of hatred (evil) coming from your tones is why the so called "liberals" have to use so much caution with the true "Scumbags." But the truth is... most of you sound as bad, if not worst than "ms-13" (Gangmembers).
P.S. Wrong is WRONG!

What an idiotic statement - "If you're brown or black you can get away with anything by blaming the police." That frame of mind is trash, and is definitely a problem. Black crime is the same as white crime, is the same as Latino crime, etc. I am a black man tired of white people using the blacks get away with it line.... suck it up, and stop watching cops.

You sound ridiculous with that racist, stereotypical assumption.


Well this is HappytoBeABrother... not looking to get away with anything by blaming the police. Times are changing, and your 1940 mindset is dated.

I'm sure some loophole will be found that will allow this thug to remain free to carry on with his gang banging activities. We can't just deport or jail this misunderstood guy.

Has Mayor Antonio weighed in yet on this? I've sure he'll tell us: "There is no evidence that the undocumented worker in Los Angeles (and that's were I can speak with intelligence) is a cause of criminal activity in the city." Maybe he'll go so far has writing a glowing letter about what a wonderful asset Alex Sanchez has been to Los Angeles.

Wow. A convicted criminal is deported, blaming the Police Dept. for all his woes, sneaks back in, claims he's rehabilitated, is then held up as an example of what a "ex"-gang-member convert can become, given the chance. Nice social experiment, but it's been tried before. Same results then, too. Except that this time, Sanchez was praised for his accomplishments before he was re-arrested. He and his MS-13 homies must have been getting a pretty good laugh at that one... for a while, anyway. Good riddance.

It is not so much what the mans color is so much as what he is being charged with. We assume, due to our justice system, that he is innocent. Some comment that he gets away with crimes and deportation because he is Latino and some even say that if one is African American or Latino that you can get away with anything, but I say that if this is the case, it still does not compare to the crimes that white men and women have gotten away with throughout American history.

I know Alex really well. He works WITH the police and the community to GET KIDS OUT OF GANGS and STOP GANG VIOLENCE. Visit his orgs website, his community programs included community education workshops and tattoo removal. Don't disparage the mans name without knowing what he does.
This man is one of the best allies of people that want to actually get people out of gangs

He is being targeted because he helps FORMER gang members get out of this lifestyle. If he were to go back to El Salvador he would be targeted by their former government and killed for having any ties ever to MS, despite him trying to make a difference. No one likes anyone who challenges the status qou-prison industrial complex, and empowering youth who are criminalized and seen as worthless.

Yes folks this thing is just the 'money shot'. If we aspire to assert our moral greatness as a nation we will dsicriminate between such low lives and the race, group religion etc. they are 'sociologically attched' to by those who have to gain by the predicament de jour. If these creeps are allowed to leverage their affilitation and capitalize upon puddin' headed, 'well meaning' politcs and practitioners we are doomed. Our enemies are laughing behind our collective backs.

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