LOS ANGELES – A notorious street gang accused of terrorizing a neighbourhood for years and killing a sheriff’s deputy was the target of a raid by hundreds of law enforcement officials Tuesday.
Local police working with federal agents carried out a string of early-morning raids seeking key members of the Avenues street gang, a long-standing group that claims as its territory a swath of northeast Los Angeles. About 90 suspects were named in a massive federal racketeering indictment detailing criminal activity spanning more than a decade.
Officers in full body armour were seen at dawn Tuesday at a blocked-off staging area at the Dodger Stadium parking lot, where suspects were being processed at a portable booking area as media helicopters hovered overhead.
Scores of search warrants were served at 4 a.m. from Los Angeles to Kern County, and almost all suspects were in custody within three hours, said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz.
There is “ironclad evidence of the crimes,” Diaz said at the staging area.
“Our goal is to … move these people out, occupy this community and support the law-abiding people that deserve to live in dignity here.”
Aside from murdering rivals, dealing drugs, graffiti tagging and other crimes, the gang is accused of making threats and carrying out acts of violence against police officers, culminating in two attacks that rocked the law enforcement community last year.
The first of these, on Feb. 21, 2008, saw Avenues gang members open fire with handguns and an AK-47 on Los Angeles police officers. Police shot back, killing 20-year-old Daniel Leon, whose nickname was ‘Clever,’ and injuring another man.
Then on Aug. 2, 2008, off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante was shot dead in front of his parents’ home northeast of downtown.
Even before the killing, authorities were investigating the Avenues, but his death increased the urgency of the operation. Earlier this year, police charged three men in Escalante’s death and a fourth suspect remains at large.
Tuesday’s operation marks an ongoing focus on the Avenues gang, which gets its name from a series of streets running through the area.