Feds now investigating alleged hate crimes in Compton
The U.S. attorney's office is considering whether to pursue federal civil rights charges against reputed members of a Compton gang arrested for alleged hate crimes against a black family.
Los Angeles County sheriff's anti-gang investigators say they have turned over their investigation to federal authorities after arresting two men in connection with the alleged hate crimes tied to a series of attacks on a black family—a mother, three teenage children and a 10-year-old boy and a male visitor to the home.
After the arrests were made public last week, civil rights activists and local politicians called for federal authorities to become involved in protecting residents' civil rights.
Sheriff's detectives said Friday they had arrested Jeffrey Aguilar, 19, of Gardena and Efren Marquez, 21, both alleged members of the Compton Varrio 155 gang, and are continuing to look for more assailants. Both are currently being held in county jails on unrelated probation violations for prior crimes.
Sheriff's investigators say the pair were allegedly involved in the first attack Dec. 31 when a friend came to visit the family and four men in a black SUV pulled up and used a racial slur, saying black people were barred from the neighborhood.
They allegedly jumped out, drew a gun on him and beat him with metal pipes. It was just the beginning of what detectives said was a campaign by a Latino street gang to force an African American family to leave. The attacks on the family are the latest in a series of violent incidents in which Latino gangs targeted blacks in parts of greater Los Angeles over the last decade. Compton, with a population of about 97,000, was predominantly black for many years. It is now 65% Latino and 33% black, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
"This family has no gang ties whatsoever," Sheriff's Lt. Richard Westin told The Times last week. "They are complete innocent victims here."
Sheriff's detectives have searched 11 locations in Compton, Gardena and Rialto and are hoping to make more arrests. Aguilar is accused of beating the family friend with the pipes and Marquez is accused of waving a gun in his face. Deputies also arrested a juvenile gang member who fought with one of them during a search and tried to grab the officer's pistol.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Graffiti-marred steeple of the Greater Holy Faith Baptist Church on 155th Street in Compton last week. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times