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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

9 alleged Crips members charged in series of L.A. killings

Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have charged nine alleged gang members with committing six homicides, multiple shootings and various other crimes in a pocket of South L.A. hit hard by the city’s recent surge in violence.

Police said all nine men — identified in charging documents as members of the Kitchen Crips — regularly committed violence in furtherance of the gang and in retaliation for threats to its members, instilling fear and attempting to assert control in neighborhoods including Florence-Firestone and Watts. The Kitchen Crips are a predominantly Black gang that claims as its territory an area of South Los Angeles east of the 110 Freeway.

Among their victims were individuals whom they believed to be members of rival Bloods sets and whom they conspired to kill, prosecutors alleged. One was a 61-year-old bystander killed when the men opened fire at a rival on a scooter, and another was killed when they opened fire into a crowd of people at the Nickerson Gardens public housing development, prosecutors alleged.

“It was one gang that was terrorizing several communities,” said Capt. Adrian Gonzalez, commander of the LAPD South Bureau’s Homicide Division. “It’s the gang life, and part of what they try to do is spread fear and influence.”

L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, whose office filed a raft of charges against the men Wednesday, including murder and conspiracy to commit murder, said he is “committed to making sure there are serious consequences for anyone who lacks compassion for another human life,” adding that his office was working with the families of the victims to provide “trauma-informed services.”

The accused are Tyreece Brown, 28; Jahzanee Jervean Cruz, 27; James Patterson, 38; Mario Gonzalez, 20; Tony Gonzalez, 21; Darryl Jones, 43; Matthew Louis Mouton, 30; Luis Felipe Muratalla, 21; and Alexander Padilla Yates, 27. All are residents of L.A., police said.

The nine men could not be reached for comment, and attorneys who had been assigned to represent them in early hearings either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment Friday. Those who had appeared in court as of Friday had pleaded not guilty.

Police arrested seven of the men this week in a series of six raids carried out by multiple agencies, including the LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. The two others — Mouton and Muratalla — had managed to evade capture as of Friday.

“We couldn’t locate them on the day we served the warrants,” Gonzalez said.

In addition to the arrests, the LAPD said police recovered nine firearms and “other evidence related to multiple crimes” during the raids. Gonzalez would not specify what that additional evidence included.

The homicide victims whose deaths police are attributing to the gang members, all of whom were fatally shot, include Arron Sutton, 18, killed in Florence on Nov. 15; Christopher Woods, 61, killed in Green Meadows on Nov. 21; Timonhy Lee, 24, killed in Nickerson Gardens in Watts on Nov. 22; Kodi Martin, 23, and Erika Dixon, 24, both killed in Florence-Firestone on Dec. 3; and Jamahl Feemster, 29, killed in Florence on Jan. 4, prosecutors and police said.

In addition to the killings, LAPD officials said the suspects had been linked to multiple other shootings, attempted murders, assaults, robberies and stolen vehicles. The Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors alleged the defendants began killing people after one of their own was gunned down on the evening of Sept. 26. Brown and another Kitchen Crip were outside Brown’s home on 116th Street when a member of a Bloods gang shot at them, according to court records. Brown wasn’t hit, but the other man — identified in coroner’s records as Cole Walker Haywood, 39 — was killed.

What followed, prosecutors alleged, was a series of retaliatory shootings that targeted people who belonged to — or were mistakenly believed to be affiliated with — various Bloods gangs in South Los Angeles, in some cases leaving bystanders dead and wounded.

At noon Nov. 15, according to court records, Mario Gonzalez was driving his car, with Tony Gonzalez and Padilla Yates as passengers, when he spotted Sutton, whom he believed was in a rival Bloods gang.

Tony Gonzalez and Padilla Yates then got out of the car and chased Sutton, and Gonzalez shot him dead, prosecutors alleged.

Later that day, after someone shot at a house in the Kitchen Crips’ territory, Muratalla was “involved” in a shooting at a liquor store in a neighborhood claimed by the Swans, a Bloods gang, prosecutors alleged.

Six days later, Mario Gonzalez shot at someone riding a scooter in Swans territory, prosecutors alleged. He didn’t hit the person on the scooter, but 61-year-old Woods was struck and killed.

On Nov. 22, seven of the defendants gathered at Patterson’s home on 116th Street, piled into three separate cars, and drove to Nickerson Gardens, where Padilla Yates allegedly fired out of one of the car’s windows, killing Lee.

On Dec. 3, Mario Gonzalez and Padilla Yates confronted Martin at a burger stand, believing he was affiliated with a Bloods gang, according to prosecutors. Gonzalez later found Martin at a bus stop, returned to the burger place to get Padilla Yates and Muratalla, and then returned in Muratalla’s girlfriend’s car to the bus stop — where one of the men shot and killed Martin, prosecutors alleged.

Gonzalez, Padilla Yates and Muratalla are charged with attempting to murder a man and woman in the same shooting.

On Jan. 4, Mario Gonzalez and Tony Gonzalez saw Feemster at another bus stop and fatally shot him, believing he belonged to a Bloods gang, prosecutors alleged.

The men who had been arrested Friday remained held on bail ranging from $5 million to $18 million, according to court records.

Outside the South Los Angeles apartment building where Mario and Tony Gonzalez lived, a man who declined to give his name but said he was their uncle confirmed they were brothers and members of the Kitchen Crips.

He had gone to a bail bonds office earlier Friday and figured they were accused of a serious crime because of the high bail amount, but said he was unaware they’d been charged with murder until a Times reporter told him.

He said he was aware that Mario Gonzalez’s “big homie” had been killed in September, which had seemed to set something off in the young man, but “beyond that, I don’t know what to tell you.”

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