SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Members of a Salinas-based Norteño “murder squad” have been indicted by a federal grand jury charging them with racketeering conspiracy and the killing of a number of perceived gang rivals, authorities announced Thursday.

Six members of the Norteño hit crew are accused of coordinating and carrying out missions to hunt and kill rival Sureño street gang members – or people they perceived to be Sureños – in Salinas neighborhoods.

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The indictment describes how the murder squad orchestrated seven shootings, killing eight people and injuring several others. According to the indictment, the murder squad used multi-vehicle caravans that often included one vehicle with designated shooters and at least one spotter or security vehicle to help spot victims and avoid detection by police.

The suspects were identified as Siaki Tavale, 24, Andrew Alvarado, 29, John Magat, 33, Anthony Valdez, 23, Mark Anthony Garcia, 29, and Anelu Tavale, 24. They were named in a superseding indictment filed on October 15 and unsealed on Thursday.

Prosecutors say the six defendants participated in at least seven separate “hunts” of Sureño rivals between January 2017 and November of 2018. While some of the shooters attempted to confirm their victims’ gang status before shooting them, members did not always wait for an answer before killing their victims, the indictment alleged. The result was the killing and injuring of victims who were not gang members, and investigators said seven of the eight homicide victims had no known gang affiliation, according to the indictment.

The indictment further alleged that the more “bodies” accumulated by a murder squad member, the higher status conferred on that member.

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U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni and Salinas Police Chief Adele Fresé announced the charges on Thursday.

“The indictment alleges a pattern of horrific violence,” said Anderson in a prepared statement. “This violence destroys lives. This violence holds our community hostage. In announcing today’s charges, we reaffirm the importance of professional law enforcement. We need professional law enforcement to protect the community where we live and work and raise our families.”

“The family and friends of the men murdered by this heinous criminal enterprise have suffered profound loss. The inability for these men to live out their lives is extremely disturbing to a law abiding community, all of whom have a fundamental right to be safe in their homes,” said a statement from King.

The defendants were charged with conspiracy to murder in aid of racketeering, murder using a firearm and weapons charges. All except Garcia and Anelu Tavale could face the death penalty if convicted.

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Garcia and Anelu Tavale were scheduled for initial court appearances Thursday morning.