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Hispanic gang war suspected

Extradition sought: One shooter believed to be in Mexico; police fear extra muscle from California.

Beth Warren - Staff
Saturday, November 18, 2000

When two violent street gangs began facing off in Atlanta, members of Vatos Locos called in reinforcements from as far away as California, investigators said.

Police still aren't sure just how much bloodshed, outside of last month's shooting of two teenage girls in a Norcross park, can be blamed on Vatos Locos' war with rival gang Sur 13. But they now believe the feud led to the Sept. 9 slaying of an innocent 21-year-old in Atlanta.

Atlanta homicide Detective Louie Torres has now linked suspect Jorge Morales Garcia, 20, --- a suspected Sur 13 member --- to the crime and an arrest warrant charging him with murder has been issued. But investigators fear Garcia has fled to Mexico.

Officials with the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta are petitioning the U.S. embassy in Washington for help with Garcia's extradition.

"I can't let him get away with it just because he fled to Mexico," Torres said.

Victim Jorge Marcos-Solis is not believed to be a gang member. He happened to be chatting with members of Vatos Locos on Sept. 9 beside Lindbergh Drive when Garcia raised a gun and fired, Torres said. Garcia was aiming for his enemies, but a bullet struck the Marcos-Solis in the head, the homicide detective said.

"The two gangs have had a running feud, a bitter battle that has led to several shootings," Torres said.

These gangs also are thought to be linked to seven or eight drive-by shootings in Doraville and other areas of DeKalb County and to last month's double shooting of teenage girls at Pinckneyville Park Soccer Complex, Gwinnett prosecutor Danny Porter said.

Janeth Christina Olarte and Hasia Sauceda, both 16, have admitted to shooting the female victims --- one of whom died, the prosecutor said. They are charged with murder and aggravated assault, along with Raul "Cruz" Garcia, 19, Celerino Palma, 21, and Jorge Luis Nolasco, 22. Three others are being sought.

Five days before the double shooting, Vatos Locos members burst into an Oakwood man's home, taking guns and his car, Hall County Sheriff's Capt. Murray Kogod said. Two of the suspects were females. One of the guns taken --- a sawed-off shotgun --- later was found at the Lawrenceville duplex that served as a gang base, police said.

Investigators also now believe some members of Vatos Locos have been trafficking cocaine and marijuana across Georgia lines. The scope of the illegal trade is still being investigated.

Porter said he is considering using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against any Vatos Locos gang member. First used to prosecute members of the Mafia, the RICO Act has been used successfully in the 1990s to dismantle hard-core gangs like the Latin Kings.

Some Vatos Locos gang members --- and their crimes --- started moving from Atlanta's city streets to DeKalb County about six months ago, investigators said. They made it to Gwinnett County suburbs by October, Gwinnett Detective Larry Bright said.

"I can't believe how spread out they are," said Torres.