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Former Fugitive Gang Member Sentenced to 20 Years for Racially Motivated Murder

An Avenues gang member who was captured last year after more than a decade on the run was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison on federal hate crime and firearms charges that were filed against him in 2004, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division, United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna of the Central District of California, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul D. Delacourt for the Los Angeles Field Office.

Merced Cambero Jr., 39, who used the gang moniker “Shadow,” pleaded guilty in February to participating, along with other gang members, in a conspiracy to use violence against African-Americans to interfere with their right to live in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Cambero also admitted to participating in the 1999 racially-motivated murder of Kenneth Wilson, an African-American man who was shot and killed in furtherance of that conspiracy. The defendant was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who in 2006 presided over the trial of four co-defendants who were charged along with Cambero in the initial 2004 indictment and a superseding indictment that followed in 2005.

The superseding indictment alleged that Cambero and three of the four co-defendants – Gilbert “Lucky” Saldana, Alejandro “Bird” Martinez, and Fernando “Sneaky” Cazares – shot and killed Mr. Wilson because of his race and because he was using the public streets in Los Angeles, and that they used firearms during and in furtherance of that crime. These defendants were also charged, along with a fourth co-defendant, Porfirio “Dreamer” Avila, with conspiring to use violence to interfere with the federal housing rights of African Americans in Highland Park, including another African-American man, Christopher Bowser, who was shot and killed in 2000. Saldana, Martinez, Cazares, and Avila stood trial in 2006, were convicted on all charges, and were sentenced to life in prison. Although Cambero was charged in the same indictment, he was never arrested or arraigned until he was captured in Mexico last year. He was then returned to the United States to face the charges against him.

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