The Avenues gang — named for the avenues that cross Figueroa Street — has a long and murderous history going back at least to the 1950s, when it was linked to many shootouts and killings.
At one point, prosecutors displayed photos of their gangbanging days on a screen above their heads. Three sported large tattoos of the gang's mascot — a bullet-pierced skull with a fedora and a fur collar. Martinez apparently grew his hair to mask a tattoo on his head that says "43 Kills for Thrills."
The others are Alejandro "Bird" Martinez; Porfirio "Dreamer" Avila; Gilbert "Lucky" Saldana; and Merced "Shadow" Cambero Jr., who is a fugitive. Saldana and Avila are already serving state prison sentences of life without the possibility of parole for murder — Avila for Bowser's killing, Saldana for an unrelated case. Martinez was arrested in 2004 on the charges in this case. Cazares is in custody on a parole violation.
In the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, the four defendants, their floor shackles hidden behind a desk, have eschewed the gang look. Dressed in ties and sweaters, they peruse legal documents over reading glasses and confer with their attorneys, sharing laughs with legal aides.