Fifth Gang Member Indicted in Highland Park ‘Hate Crime’ Murders

BC Cycle | November 17, 2005

LOS ANGELES – A fifth reputed gang member was added today to a federal indictment accusing them of conspiring to force black residents out of Highland Park by committing hate crimes, including two murders. Porfirio “Dreamer” Avila, 31, is accused of being part of a conspiracy that prosecutors say led to numerous violent assaults and two murders, one in 1999 and one in 2000. Avila is already serving two life sentences in state prison for murdering two black men, including Highland Park resident Christopher Bowser, who was gunned down on Dec. 11, 2000.

Today’s federal indictment accuses him of driving a car that carried a “known co-conspirator” who allegedly killed Bowser. The indictment does not allege that Avila participated directly in the April 18, 1999, murder of 38-year-old motorist Kenneth Kurry Wilson, but says the other defendants conspired to murder Wilson because he was black, and that Avila and the other defendants had agreed to sometimes kill in order to achieve their objective of forcing black people out of the neighborhood. The indictment also charges the other four defendants with using a firearm as part of a conspiracy and hate crimes.

According to prosecutors, Avila and the other four defendants are members of the Avenues 43 gang, a clique of the larger Avenues, or Avenida, gang. Three of the other four defendants, Gilbert “Lucky” Saldana, Fernando “Sneaky” Cazares and Alejandro “Bird” Martinez have pleaded innocent in the case. The fourth, Merced “Shadow” Cambero, is a fugitive, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Saldana, 27, is serving a life sentence in state prison for another murder. Cazares, 25, is currently serving a 34-month sentence in state prison on unrelated charges. Martinez, 28, allegedly served as a lookout during the Wilson slaying. Cambero, 27, was allegedly the second triggerman in the Wilson murder. If convicted, the five face life in prison without parole.

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