Two self-proclaimed white supremacists were charged with hate crime murder Tuesday in the beating death of an African American homeless man behind a Lancaster fast-food restaurant two years ago.
The case is only the second hate crime homicide to be prosecuted in Los Angeles County.
Two of the defendants, Randall Lee "Randy" Rojas and Ritch Bryant, had been convicted of previous hate crimes involving assault and attempted murder. A third defendant, a teenage girl whom prosecutors declined to identify, also was charged.
Hate crimes have become increasingly common in the Antelope Valley, rising from 18 in 1995 to 40 in 1996, officials said.
Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti announced the charges, saying that the case should send a message to "young people especially" that hate crimes will be aggressively prosecuted in Los Angeles County.
"We will not tolerate hate crimes," Garcetti said. "Whoever's thinking about getting involved in any skinhead-type of crime, understand that the people around me are going to find you."
Garcetti was joined at a news conference announcing the arrests by about a dozen prosecutors, FBI and law enforcement officials, and community activists.
The announcement marked the eighth hate crime prosecuted as a result of investigation by an Antelope Valley task force of federal and state law enforcement agents and prosecutors since January.
When Milton Walker Jr. was found dead Nov. 25, 1995, the case was considered a simple homicide. The motive of racial hatred was discovered later, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors refused to say what made the case a hate crime, why it took two years to solve, details of the murder or how the three defendants knew each other, saying that releasing that information would harm the investigation.
Bryant is in state prison serving an eight-year term in connection with the September 1995 beating and stabbing of an African American at Antelope Valley High School.
Rojas was in a halfway house as a condition of his probation after serving two years for the December 1995 beating of a Latino outside a 7-Eleven store in the Antelope Valley.
The teenage girl is being held at the juvenile detention facility in Sylmar.