Clashes Between Latino, Black Gangs Increase
By JESSE KATZ
Dec. 26, 1993
After decades of operating in separate worlds, black and Latino gangs have begun to clash over turf and drugs, sparking a series of violent interracial battles that authorities say signals an ominous turn in the region’s gang warfare.
In communities from Venice to Riverside, gangs that once coexisted peacefully--sometimes even allying themselves to fend off outsiders--have become rivals in a power struggle that is linked to racial conflicts inside the jails and prisons, officials say.
“We’ve got a problem that, Jesus, if it explodes, won’t compare to anything we’ve seen before,” said Miguel (Mike) Duran, a gang specialist with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, who has worked to promote understanding between black and Latino gang members. “We’ve got to deal with it. You can’t run and hide.”
Nowhere has the clash been more fierce than on the Westside, where 13 people have been slain this year in a retaliatory cycle of bloodshed between two Latino gangs and one black gang that erupted in Venice’s Oakwood district and spread east to the Mar Vista Gardens housing project.
Since October, in a square-mile area, more than 30 people have been shot, several of whom were innocent victims apparently mistaken for gang members. In Mar Vista Gardens, Latino gang members are suspected of firebombing three units where African American families lived, while racist threats were left on the doors of half a dozen others. For two weeks, teachers at an Oakwood preschool refused to even let youngsters play outside.
“Once a Hispanic gets killed, they come back and take revenge on the blacks--just back and forth, back and forth,” said Nina Patterson-Lewis, whose 25-year-old brother, Jeremey LeShawn Patterson, was gunned down last month in Venice as he walked home from his job as a hospital orderly. “They had no reason to kill him. They didn’t even know him. They just saw a black man walking down the street and shot.”
In a confidential intelligence report prepared by the Housing Authority Police Department, officers contend that the violence on the Westside is not isolated, but part of large-scale battle between prison gangs to control narcotics trafficking on the streets.
The memo states that members of the Mexican Mafia, which has attempted to organize Latino gangs by calling for a halt to drive-by shootings, were paroled recently to the Mar Vista area. It adds that members of rival prison gangs, including the Black Guerrilla Family, also have been released to the community in the last few months--just about the time the street gangs turned on each other.
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