Gang Members Charged With Hate Crime

Charlene Lovett says “nothing has been done at all” to address racial divisions in the community where her daughter was slain, allegedly because of her skin color.
Charlene Lovett says “nothing has been done at all” to address racial divisions in the community where her daughter was slain, allegedly because of her skin color.

By GENE C. JOHNSON JR., Staff Writer 19.JUL.07
Prosecutors allege that 14-year-old Cheryl Green was slain because she was African-American, and her mother says little has been done to ease lingering racial tensions in Harbor Gateway.

Charlene Lovett says it took every ounce of her inner strength to not attack two Latino gang members on Tuesday, as a Superior Court judge ordered the pair to stand trial in connection with the December shooting death of her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Green.

"There were things that came out in court that I had no strength to ask questions about” basically, what happened in detail [during the shooting], said Lovett, a 36-year-old mother of three surviving children, as she held back tears during a Wednesday morning interview with The Wave. It was very emotional for me to be there yesterday.

Nineteen-year-old Jonathan Fajardo and Ernesto Alcarez, 20, were charged with murder and six counts of attempted murder for the Dec. 15 shooting that killed Green and wounded three others — two girls and a boy. The suspects will return to court for a July 31 arraignment.

According to police, Green, a Stephen M. White Middle School eighth-grader, was standing with a group of friends on Harvard Boulevard near 206th Street when she was shot. The charges allege Green's death was the result of a hate crime, and that the shooting was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang” something Lovett knew long before the fatal shots rang out.

"When I moved in there [Harbor Gateway] in 2000, the neighbors told me, don't go north of 206th Street.™ And they were very adamant about that, Lovett said. We knew from earlier on to not go that way, and I had never been that way until we did one of the peace marchers over there.

Residents said Latino gang members had long warned blacks in the area not to cross the so-called forbidden line, under threat of violence.

During Tuesday's hearing, a gang expert went back in history and told how in the ˜80s, blacks were moving in over there” and how [Latino gang members vowed] to take them out, Lovett said.

The case gained more notoriety recently when five men” including Fajardo” were charged in the killing of 25-year-old Christopher Ash, whom they allegedly suspected of witnessing or having information about the Green slaying.

Still, Lovett said she has seen little change in Harbor Gateway since her daughter's death, even after the many demonstrations and promises by elected officials.

Just a little Band-Aid here and there, she said. But, you know, it can get wet and come off. They [elected officials] haven't put anything permanent in there. Everything is temporary. There are too many young lives are being taken.

How can you block off a street here and a street there to have some activities for the kids? Eventually you're going to take that stuff away after 5 or 6 o'clock, she continued. You're going to haul that stuff away and things are back to where they are."

City officials, she said, need to build a community center where residents can come together to discuss their similarities and differences.

"Nothing has been done at all, Lovett said. I go to task force meetings every other Thursday. And I've been to a few of those. People are sitting around the table and complaining that all we ever do is sit around and talk.

For her part, Lovett said she recently began a non-profit organization in the community,, which is devoted to promoting racial unity.

"She's taken it upon herself to bring black and Latino children together", said activist Najee Ali, who works closely with Lovett. The first meeting will be held next month, but the foundation has already begun with services in the community. The next step is to get as many people as possible involved in the Cheryl Green Foundation.

For now, the small joys keep Lovett living day-by-day.

"My children and I were already a close-knit family," she said. "But now, it's just the little things that matter to me now. I make sure that I say ˜I love you" whenever they walk out the door” and they'll tell me˜I love you" whenever I'm leaving out. It's just the little things that are so important to us now.

"Now my niece had a little girl July 2, and her name is Cheryl, after my daughter," Lovett said. "I love it."

- Photo by Gary McCarthy

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