The last defendant in the killing of Cheryl Green, the 14-year-old black girl gunned down by Latino street gang members, was sentenced today to 238 years to life in prison.
Ernesto Alcarez, now 25, had been convicted last month. He was the lookout that after on December 15, 2006 when 204th Street gang member Jonathan Fajardo, pictured here, went looking for blacks to shoot and found Green and some friends talking on a street nearby.
The case was one of the most remarkable of my career. First, it showed how Latino street gangs had become the region’s foremost race-hate criminals, much of this stemming from orders from the Mexican Mafia in prison, and the general apartheid culture that reins in the institutions, which had by 2006 made its way out onto the street and was causing great havoc.
The killing of Green, followed by the slaying of Christopher Ash, a 204th Street associated whom the gang believed to be an informant, left a trail of pointless destruction. Two families had loved ones killed. Five families have loved ones doing life in prison.
Amazingly, Alcarez and Fajardo barely knew each other when Fajardo set out that day, with Alcarez has his somewhat reluctant lookout.The way a gang member explained it to me, Alcarez was a kind of wannabe member of 204th Street whose commitment the gang wanted to test by sending him along with Fajardo, a dedicated 204th Streeter and serious methamphetamine user.
Their fate was entwined forever when Fajardo opened fire, killing Green.
Alcarez’s mother once told me that she’d moved from the neighborhood to get her son away from 204th Street, but he kept returning. A story like so many others I’ve heard, speaking to the brainwashing that goes on in many of these street gangs.
Strangely, Fajardo was himself half black, though he identified as a Latino. He’s now on Death Row.
I wrote a story of how the Harbor Gateway area Cheryl Green had grown up in had been changed by lenient zoning laws from a single-family neighborhood into one crammed with apartment buildings that led to the problems of race it experienced beginning in the late 1990s. The story was also about the hollowing out of the LA economy, and the departure of union jobs that had held neighborhoods like the Gateway together for so long.
Gretchen Ford, the prosecutor in the case, prosecuted five defendants in three separate trials, one of them a death penalty case for the shooter, Jonathan Fajardo. A tip of my hat to her.
It feels like the end of an era, she told me the day Alcarez was sentenced. I bet. Feels that way to me, too.
Photos: Cheryl Green and Jonathan Fajardo