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7 in Los Angeles Charged With Firebomb Attacks on Black Families

FILE - Men play cards in Mariachi Plaza in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles, home to many Mexican and Central American migrants, Aug. 9, 2014. Seven men have been charged in firebombings that drove blacks from their homes in the neighborhood.

Seven men have been charged in a federal indictment with firebombing the homes of African-American families living in a Latino neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The 10-count indictment against the men, all members of a street gang known as Big Hazard (Hazard Grande), was unsealed Thursday. Charges included arson, weapons offenses, civil rights violations and racketeering.

"The defendants used firebombs to drive the victims from their homes because of their race," said Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society."

The seven men were accused of planning their attack in advance and carrying it out in mid-May 2014 against specific homes where African-American families lived, in a housing development where most residents are Hispanic. No one was hurt in the pre-dawn attacks, but prosecutors said one of the firebombs landed where a mother and her baby had just been sleeping.

The attacks took place near downtown Los Angeles in Boyle Heights, a densely populated neighborhood of about 100,000 people in the city of nearly 4 million.

The indictment described the Hazard street gang as "a criminal organization whose members engaged in, among other things, robbery, extortion, witness intimidation, trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances."

Federal officials said gang members would spray-paint their symbols on businesses and residences, "obtain and possess guns and other dangerous weapons in order to enforce the authority of the Hazard gang, intimidate rivals and residents, and attack rivals and African-Americans."