By Vickie Vértiz
In what is being heralded as a dent in on-going violence, thirty-three people were arrested in a three-month investigation that culminated on December fifth as part of a huge operation that targeted alleged gang members. Officials made this announcement at a news conference Monday, December 15.
Officials also announced the gang war had been “raining terror” on San Bernardino and Highland residents. According to their records, the arrests included three people that “officials say are responsible for two homicides,” but the suspects have not yet been convicted.
The inquiry started when San Bernardino and Highland law enforcement officials noticed the frequent occurrence of “violent gang activity,” said San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sargent Trevis Newport to the Press Enterprise.
“In particular areas,” he said, “we do [not] know why, the rivalries [between gangs] get particularly fierce.”
Two people died in the course of the violence, Rashaun Green in San Bernardino and Michael Martinez Junior in Highland, said the paper. On November 11th, Green was killed on Loma Street. Two men were arrested who officers say are rival gang members in connection to that casualty: Cory Thomas and a young person who is too young to be named. Thomas is also accused of fatally shooting Martinez on August 30th on Paloma Road, reported the news source.
At the news conference, photos of the 33 suspects were shown, including about 20 firearms. During the operation, drugs were also taken from suspects, said officers.
Because of the arrests, three home invasion robberies that were being planned in San Bernardino County and in Nevada were prevented, according to a news release from the office of the sheriff. Among the numerous arrests, the paper added that “three were on suspicion of homicide, 29 on suspicion of attempted homicide, 16 on suspicion of conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder and two on suspicion of being an accessory to murder.”
To properly cover all of the affected areas, the paper added, spanning a large geographic region, several law enforcement agencies cooperated in the operation: the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, the San Bernardino Police Department, County Probation, the California Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The day when gangs were neighborhood-specific [in the Inland Empire] are long gone,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.
Family members of the Martinez victim were at the conference, too. The paper reported that his sister Michelle Martinez cried as her father, Michael Martinez Senior, held her. She described him at the gathering of officers and the press as “outgoing, funny, caring.”
His stepsister, Aaleyah Esquivel added that her brother “always wanted to do what [was] best for you. Even though he was only my stepbrother, he was the best brother I could have ever asked for.”
Martinez Senior said he hoped that the large-scale gang crackdown would be a wake-up call to those involved in making these choices that frequently lead to destruction and violence.
“It is time to wake up. […] When are we going to stop killing each other,” he said. “Stop taking the bait, stop falling in the trap. … There’s […] so much more out there to see.”
Multiple Law Enforcement Agencies Team Up to Stop Gangs
By Vickie Vértiz