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Last suspect in Cheryl Green hate-crime murder gets 238 years

Cheryl Green vigil
The last defendant in the hate-crime killing of 14-year-old Cheryl Green was sentenced Wednesday to 238 years to life in prison.

Ernesto Alcarez was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and a hate crime last month in the killing of Green, a black girl who was gunned down while standing with friends on a street in her Harbor Gateway neighborhood.

Alcarez's sentence was imposed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus.

Prosecutors said Alcarez acted as a lookout for the shooter, 204th Street gang member Jonathan Fajardo.

On Dec. 15, 2006, Fajardo faced off with a black motorist in the neighborhood earlier in the day. He went to a stash house for a gun and then walked back to the neighborhood with Alcarez in tow looking for the motorist, according to testimony in previous court hearings.

The pair came upon Green and several other African Americans. In broad daylight, Fajardo opened fire without a word, hitting the girl in the stomach, and wounding several of her friends. Green's friends rushed her to a hospital, where she died.

The crime cast light on long-standing violence by Latino street gangs against blacks in many neighborhoods of the city. The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations said Latino street gangs were the most violent perpetrators of hate crimes in the region, mostly against blacks.

The tiny Harbor Gateway neighborhood where Green lived became a symbol of those tensions. Black residents told The Times that they were often harassed and beaten by the Latino 204th Street gang, and could not patronize the area's only market, which the gang used as its hangout. The neighborhood had averaged about one Latino-on-black homicide a year since 1997, according to LAPD figures. Most of the victims were not affiliated with any gang, police said.

Within weeks, FBI Director Robert Mueller, along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, then-Police Chief William Bratton, Sheriff Lee Baca and then-City Councilwoman Janice Hahn held a news conference in front of the market, vowing to eradicate the gang and invest in services long lacking in the dense, isolated neighborhood.

A 2008 gang injunction put many 204th Streeters in jail. The Cheryl Green Youth Center opened in 2009, offering after-school activities for the neighborhood's kids.

Green's murder gave rise to another killing -- of 204th Street associate Christopher Ash, 25, whom gang members believed had told police that Fajardo was responsible for Green's slaying.

Two weeks after Green was killed, Ash was lured to the garage of a house in Carson and stabbed repeatedly by Fajardo and other 204th Street gang members. His body was then dumped on a Carson street.

Police officials said Ash had not cooperated with them.

In 2010, Fajardo was found guilty of two counts of murder and committing a hate crime for shooting Green and stabbing Ash, and given the death penalty.

Defendants in that case – Robert Gonzales, Daniel Aguilar and Raul Silva – have all been convicted of Ash's murder, along with Fajardo. Another defendant in that case, Jose Covarrubias, testified against his former 204th Street associates.

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-- Sam Quinones

Photo: Mourners hold a candlelight vigil for Cheryl Green, pictured at left, on the anniversary of her death in 2007.  Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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