Department of Justice seal U.S. Department of Justice

Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California

United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

November 17, 2005
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947


Los Angeles, CA - A federal grand jury today returned a superseding indictment that adds a fifth gang member to an indictment that had previously charged four others in connection with a six-year conspiracy to assault and murder African-Americans in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles.

Porfirio Avila was named in a conspiracy charge that alleges numerous violent assaults against African-Americans, including murders that took place in 1999 and in 2000. The indictment alleges that Avila was the driver of a vehicle that carried the shooter who fatally shot Christopher Bowser on December 11, 2000.

Four of Avila's fellow gang members were previously indicted in August 2004 and are also named in the new indictment. The four previously indicted were allegedly directly involved in the murder of Kenneth Kurry Wilson, an African-American man gunned down in Highland Park on April 18, 1999.

The indictment charges that the five defendants, all members of the Avenues street gang, conspired with each other and with other gang members to violate the civil rights of African-Americans in the gang's neighborhood by attacking and sometimes killing the victims. The conspiracy charge alleges that the defendants attacked numerous African-American residents of Highland Park and murdered Kenneth Kurry Wilson in 1999 and Christopher Bowser the next year. The second count of the indictment alleges that the four defendants who participated in Wilson's murder did so because Wilson was African-American and because he was using the public streets of Los Angeles. The final count of the indictment charges the same four defendants with using a firearm during the commission of a conspiracy and hate crimes.

The defendants in this case are:

- Gilbert Saldana, 27, an alleged triggerman in the Wilson murder, who is currently serving a life sentence in state prison for another murder;
- Merced Cambero, 27, the second alleged triggerman in the Wilson murder, who is currently a fugitive;
- Alejandro Martinez, 28, who allegedly served as a look-out during the Wilson slaying;
- Fernando Cazares, 25, another alleged look-out in the Wilson murder who is currently serving a 34-month sentence in state prison on various unrelated charges; and
- Porfirio Avila, 31, who is currently serving two life sentences in state prison for the murder of Christopher Bowser and another African-American man.

If convicted of the crimes alleged in the indictment, the defendants face life without parole in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department and is being prosecuted by attorneys from the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.


Release No. 05-155

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