Photos of Merced Cambero Jr. that appeared in the FBI’s Wanted posters

Highland Park —  Avenues gang member Merced Cambero, Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the deadly conspiracy to force African Americans out of Highland Park during the 1990s, the U.S. Attorney announced today.

The 39-year-old Cambero, aka Shadow, pleaded guilty in February to participating in a conspiracy to use violence against African Americans and also admitted to his involvement in the 1999 murder of Kenneth Wilson.

Wilson was an African-American man who died after being shot in the neck while driving around looking for a parking space. Another African-American man, Christopher Bowser was shot and killed in 2000 as part of the same conspiracy.

Four other defendants in the case went to trial in 2006 and were sentenced to life in prison. Cambero had been charged in the same case but he remained a fugitive until he was captured in Mexico early last year.

In addition to the killings, Avenues gang members also “shot a 15-year-old boy riding a bike; pistol-whipped a jogger; knocked a woman off a bike and beat her in the head; beat a man at a payphone with a metal club; and drew the outlines of human bodies and scrawled a racial slur in chalk on a family’s driveway,” according to an L.A. Time story of the trial.

In court filings, Cambero admitted that he and his fellow gang members were in a stolen van when they saw Wilson, whom they did not know, and decided to kill him because of his race. Cambero admitted that he and two other gang members then got out of the van and fired guns at Wilson, who was killed by a single gunshot through the neck.

Cambero’s punishment and the crimes he pleaded to earlier this year are significantly less severe than those of the other defendants.

Federal judge Percy Anderson, who had presided over the 2006 trial, said his sentence of Cambero was based on the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility and the desire of the victims and witnesses to be spared the trauma of another trial. The mothers of two murder victims returned to court on Monday to speak during the sentencing hearing.

Cambero in a letter to the judge apologized “to everyone in Highland Park for all the hurt I caused as a member of the Avenues gang,” according to City News Service.  He said that he often thinks “of the man, Mr. Wilson, that I killed on Avenue 52 that night 20 years ago.”

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