Skip to Content
Los Angeles

East L.A. Gang Members Admit to Fire-Bombing Black Homes in the Ramona Gardens Projects

Three East Los Angeles gang members admitted to carrying out orders from the Mexican Mafia and fire-bombing apartments in the Ramona Gardens projects filled with sleeping women and children solely because they were black.

The members of the Big Hazard street gang agreed to plead guilty on charges for their role in firebombing the homes of African-Americans living in the Ramona Gardens housing development on the night of Mother's Day in 2014, federal attorneys announced last Thursday.

In their plea agreements, Jose “Lil' Moe” Saucedo, Edwin “Boogie” Felix, and Jonathan “Pelon” Portillo said their motivation behind the attacks was racial. The gang members targeted the apartments because they belonged to African-Americans and wanted to push them out of the housing complex, said a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Big Hazard, a Latino gang that formed in Boyle Heights, claims Ramona Gardens as their territory. The Los Angeles Times reports that the instructions for the attacks came from the Mexican Mafia, a large and secretive prison gang with deep ties and influence among smaller gangs across Southern California. Big Hazard had tried to keep African-Americans out of the complex for years.

The Big Hazard charges recall the hate-crimes prosecutions of Avenues gang members in Highland Park, who also targeted African American households with "racial animus," said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles, in an interview Tuesday.

"Avenues was the first one in which federal civil rights laws are used against gangsters, in any form," Mrozek said. "But in terms of a fire-bombing thing, we have not seen anything like that."

'Some Eme members have ordered what amounts to crime waves in their areas.'

In a 2015 interview with L.A. Taco, journalist Sam Quinones explained: "Some Eme members have ordered what amounts to crime waves in their areas. Many have let it be known that they didn’t want blacks operating in their territories, leading gangs to go on ethnic cleansing crusades for several years."

Plea agreements detailed the Mother's Day events in 2014: Gang members entered the federal funded housing complex, avoiding security cameras. They smashed windows, and threw Molotov cocktails into pre-selected homes. Families were sleeping inside the homes, three of the four homes belonged to African-American families.

The fourth home was targeted by mistake, Mrozek said.

Saucedo, Felix, and Portillo face potential sentences of over 30 years.

“These defendants have admitted their goal was to drive African Americans out of this housing facility,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna in a statement. “This simply will not be tolerated, and we will take any and all steps necessary to protect the civil rights of every person who lives in the United States.”

Other members of the gang involved with the incident are either awaiting sentencing or their scheduled trial.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Gangs in Los Angeles ~ An Interview with Sam Quinones

* Daniel Hernandez contributed reporting to this story.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

VIDEO: LAPD Officer Runs Red Light for Non-Emergency Call, Kills Pedestrian in Marked Crosswalk in Hollywood

This tragic death is a reminder of the dangers of being a pedestrian in Los Angeles. In 2023, for the first time in two decades, there were more than 300 traffic fatalities, according to an analysis. Meaning there were more traffic deaths than homicides in the city.

May 29, 2024

Open Thread: What Are L.A.’s Most Dangerous Streets?

where are the turns you see drivers constantly struggle to barely make? The intersection where there always seems to be a crash? The ancient freeway entrance that remains a hazard to life as we know it?

‘This is Los Angeles:’ Family Behind El Burro at Placita Olvera Fight to Save 57 Years of Tradition and Culture

"It’s a huge part of L.A.'s identity," said Eugenia Nicole Macias. "We’re not going anywhere. Our grandmother raised us to make noise."

May 24, 2024

What To Eat This Weekend In L.A.: Sonoran-Style Chicharrón, Tikka Masala Fried Chicken, Japanese Curry Arancini, and ‘Flintstones Burgers’

Plus a breezy new restaurant in the South Bay, Guam-style barbecue at the races, smoked birria, and cassava tortillas. Here's where to eat this weekend from Cudahy to West Adams to Arcadia!

May 24, 2024

LAPD Officer Released on $30,000 Bond Following Arrest For Assault With a Deadly Weapon

A day after the incident the LAPD said in a statement that they were prompted to respond to the 8600 block of Belford Avenue after “a community member generated a radio call of an Assault with a Deadly Weapon.” Police later identified the suspect as “off-duty Officer Richard Podkowski.”

See all posts