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Gang calls off racial turf war

Latino gang members in Harbor Gateway say they'll open their territory to all if access is granted in black parts of the neighborhood.

January 17, 2007|Sam Quinones | Times Staff Writer

Members of Harbor Gateway's 204th Street gang -- which has a reputation for attacking blacks in their area -- said Tuesday they have agreed to a truce and will open their neighborhood to all residents, including African Americans.

In exchange, they want similar access to the predominantly African American part of the neighborhood.

"We want total access ... for everyone who lives in the neighborhood," said Jonathan O'Gorman, 32, a member of the gang since his early teens.

Gang members said they also want the city to invest in their neighborhood and to review three cases involving members they say were unjustly convicted of murdering black men. They've also asked for a halt to a proposed gang injunction and a moratorium on additional unemployed residents moving into subsidized housing in the area.

The truce is an "opportunity for the community to benefit from the public spotlight," O'Gorman said.

It comes after a tense month between black and Latino residents of the tiny neighborhood just east of Torrance.

On Dec. 5, Mexican immigrant Arturo Ponce, 34, was fatally shot by a youth who witnesses believe was black, though he wore a hood and mask. On Dec. 15, two members of the 204th Street gang allegedly shot a 14-year-old black girl to death. They face murder and hate-crime charges.

The killings have left residents of both races accusing each other of harassment and violence.

Najee Ali, an activist who runs Project Islamic Hope and negotiated the truce with the 204th Street gang, said the gang members are asking the city to use its eminent domain powers to accumulate land for a recreation center. The 12-square-block neighborhood has no park, school, community center or church and has only one business -- a small market that the gang claims as its territory.

"The only way the truce is going to hold is if city leaders do their part and bring in more resources," Ali said.

Ali and members of the black community will hold a news conference Thursday with the gang members and walk through the neighborhood passing out fliers announcing the truce.

O'Gorman said gang members also want police to review the cases of Albert Mata, Marco Milla and Mario Martinez, gang members convicted of killing blacks in the last decade. Gang members said that all three are innocent and that their cases have made Latino residents reluctant to call police.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn has asked the city attorney's office for an injunction against the gang and said she has asked city staff to investigate ways of raising $50 million for anti-gang programs.

Hahn vowed to push for a gang injunction, saying that the community and law enforcement have asked for it.

"This gang has caused enough terror and enough crime in this community," she said.

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sam.quinones@latimes.com

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