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6 alleged members of “murder squad” linked to 8 killings

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) — Six alleged gang members who were part of a “murder squad” that roamed the streets of Monterey County looking for rival gang members and are suspected in eight killings have been arrested and charged with murder and other crimes, authorities announced Thursday.

The alleged Norteño gang members traveled in caravans of three cars and between January 2017 and November 2018 went on “hunts” in the streets of Salinas, killing eight men — in once case firing at least 35 shots. Many others were injured, U.S. Attorney David Anderson said.

The group would not confirm their targets were indeed rival gang members and would choose their victims based on characteristics they associated with rival Sureños gang members — Latino men, people with shaved heads, or people who were wearing blue, according to court documents.

Of the eight victims, only one was a gang member, Anderson said.

In one case, the group went looking for rival Sureño gang members to kill to commemorate the birthday of a deceased gang member. The shooters spotted a man walking on a street and fired at least 35 shots at him, killing him. There was no evidence that this victim was actually a gang member, according to the indictment.

The shootings were part of their strategy to control the local drug trade and instill fear in rival gang members and the community and to prove they belonged in the group, Anderson said.

“You wouldn’t be a member of the murder squad unless you had committed a murder. You couldn’t gain increased stature within the murder squad unless you committed more murders,” Anderson said.

The suspects are Siaki Tavale, 24, Anelu Tavale, 24, Andrew Alvarado, 29, John Magat, 33, Anthony Valdez, 23 and Mark Anthony Garcia, 29. They have been indicted and charged with racketeering conspiracy, murder and related crimes.

It wasn’t immediately known if they have retained attorneys who can speak on their behalf.

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