Feds: 17 gang members hit with murder, drug charges

HAMMOND, Ind. — Seventeen alleged gang members of a Chicago-based street gang were charged Friday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The indictments described nearly a dozen murders, including the deaths of two young children.

Friday’s indictment included 17 Latin Dragon Nation gang members facing charges of murder, drug dealing and other offenses. They stand accused of 11 murders dating back more than a decade with victims as young as 10. Prosecutors said there were 43 victims in all.

The Chicago-based gang was allegedly operating in the suburbs and northwest Indiana. U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said gang members should not feel comfortable in the northern district of Indiana because they will never tolerate gang violence.

"I’ve said this before. Gang activity does not stop at the state line, and as evidenced by the charges today neither do our investigations and prosecutions,” Kirsch said.

Northern Indiana’s top federal prosecutor says Chicago-based gangs were behind a string of violent crimes going back years across parts of the city, northwest Indiana and Chicago’s south suburbs.

That included the murders of two children.

“Gangs terrorize our neighborhoods and put innocent lives at graves risk. Like 10-year-old Gustavo Garcia and 10-year-old Nikiel Fowler whose deaths at the hands of the Latin Dragon Nation are so tragic and completely senseless,” Kirsch said.

Gustavo was shot and killed in July 14, 2017 when the vehicle he was riding in was fired upon during a drive-by on the 3500 block of 97th Street that night.

Gustavo was in an SUV with his stepdad and one of his friends when the car pulled up next to them and opened fire. They were on their way to pick up a friend.

Gustavo was shot in the back and later pronounced dead at Comer's Children's Hospital.

Gustavo was a fourth grader at Arnold Mireles Academy in South Chicago.

A decade earlier, prosecutors pinned another child’s murder on the same gang.

They said Latin Dragon Nation members killed 10-year-old Nikiel Fowler as she walked with her 5-year-old sister, who was blind, in the city’s South Chicago neighborhood in 2008.

Two years later, Fowler’s sister, who survived, and her mother spoke about her loss.

“It’s hell. I can’t deal with death. I don’t know how. It’s hard," she said.

All but one of the people charged Friday are currently in custody.

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