Three purported members of a Gardena street gang under the control of the Mexican Mafia have been charged in federal court with violent crime in aid of racketeering for allegedly participating in a fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man gunned down in front of his home, it was announced Wednesday.

The three defendants are charged in a criminal complaint alleging they were involved in the Nov. 13 murder of the victim, who is identified in Los Angeles court papers as E.C., according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendants, all residents of Gardena, are:
   — Jesus “Rowdy” Hernandez, 27, who was taken into custody early Wednesday by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations;
   — Antonio “Tank” Yanez, 22, who is currently in state custody; and
   — Justin “Hitta” Arteaga, 20, who also is currently in state custody.

A fourth man who allegedly participated in the attack was G. Hernandez, who is Jesus Hernandez’s older brother. Described in court papers as a longtime documented gang member, he was shot by E.C.’s father during the Nov. 13 incident and later died at a hospital, prosecutors said.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, E.C. and his brother were seated in parked car near their driveway when they were confronted by three men on foot — G. Hernandez, Yanez and Arteaga. E.C.’s brother told the men they were not affiliated with a gang and they were simply in front of their longtime home. As the men neared the parked car, E.C. stepped out of the vehicle while his brother texted their father, asking him to bring his gun outside because of the escalating situation.

The affidavit alleges that G. Hernandez swung at E.C., who swung back, and all three assailants pulled out guns and began shooting. The father saw the text message and soon after heard 15-20 gunshots. The father came out to the car and saw G. Hernandez about 50 yards down the street. G. Hernandez began shooting at the father, who returned fire and struck G. Hernandez. One of the other gunmen also fired at the father after G. Hernandez fell to the ground, prosecutors said.

Police and paramedics responded to the scene, where they treated E.C., but he died soon after as a result of the 10 gunshot wounds he suffered. G. Hernandez, who was found with gunshot wounds to his head and chest, was brought to a hospital, where he died several days later, according to federal prosecutors.

Soon after the shooting, Gardena Police officers arrested J. Hernandez and Yanez in the backyard of a nearby residence. Responding officers also recovered four 9mm handguns, three of which were “ghost guns” with no serial numbers.

Arteaga was arrested on Nov. 17 at Los Angeles International Airport as he was preparing to board a one-way flight to Guadalajara, Mexico. He was wearing the same hat he was seen wearing on security video taken the night of the shooting, according to the affidavit.

Yanez and Arteaga initially were charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which has dismissed those charges in light of the federal racketeering case. Jesus Hernandez was not charged after he was detained by local authorities.

The federal complaint alleges that the murder of E.C. was committed to further the power of a Gardena street gang, which is described in the affidavit as a criminal enterprise that has documented membership in California, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii and Rosarito, Mexico. The Gardena Police Department believes the gang distributes narcotics, primarily methamphetamine, both locally and in Hawaii.

The violent crime in aid of racketeering offense alleged in the complaint carries a possible maximum sentence of the death penalty or life in federal prison because victim E.C. was murdered, federal prosecutors said.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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