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Teens Attack Migrant Workers

Actress/model Milla Jovovich attends The L'Oreal Legends Gala to benefit The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at the Museum of Natural History, November 8, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
GETTY IMAGES/Evan Agostini
The San Diego District Attorney plans to prosecute seven teen-age boys as adults for a vicious attack earlier this month that seriously injured five Mexican migrants working legally in the United States.

Many local residents are surprised at the level of ethnic hatred the incident seems to have uncovered, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

It was a brutal attack on migrant farm workers in their 60s and 70s. And after a two-week manhunt, who was arrested was as shocking as the hate crime itself: seven teenagers -- aged 14 to 17 -- from an affluent part of San Diego.

Police say the teens shot one migrant worker in the back with pellet guns. The whole group invaded a migrant camps using BB guns, pipes, rocks and a pitchfork to attack and rob the workers, all the while shouting racial slurs.

One worker told reporters the teens shouted, "Go back to Mexico." He thought they were going to kill him.

The crime has enraged San Diego's growing Latino community.

City Council Member Juan Vargas says, "My father was a field worker and there but for the grace of God (it) could have been my dad."

Authorities say the teens didn't belong to any organized hate group -- but before their arrests they were under surveillance at a shack which is covered in racist graffiti.

Most of the accused went to the same prestigious, mainly white high school, Mt. Carmel.

Student Sharon Yang says, "I thought we were all really compassionate people and it's really shocking that people would do something like this."

But the attack was not an isolated event. Last year hate crime reports in San Diego jumped 124 percent.

Now many are asking where the community and parents were when these seven teens were learning to hate.

A judge on Wednesday set bail at $75,000 each for the teens.

During the hearing, prosecutors asked for a higher bail of $250,000, arguing that the teens had beaten a 69-year-old man unconscious, and returned later to hide his body in the bushes because they thought he was dead.

The judge decided to delay the arraignment because defense lawyers are challenging Proposition 21. That's the voter-approved initiative that allows the district attorney -- rather than judges -- to charge juveniles as adults.

A hearing on that issue is set for August 21.

None of the teens have entered pleas.

Prosecutors say that if the teens are convicted of all counts in adult court, they face sentences ranging from 12 to 16 years in prison.