[quote="redrum"]Taking a SWAT at crime
Early-morning police raids target Pasadena street gang
By Marshall Allen , Staff Writer
PASADENA -- Police arrested five alleged gang members, including a 17-year-old murder suspect, in a Thursday morning operation that included 225 tactical officers from agencies throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
Authorities from 10 departments served search warrants at 15 residences in Pasadena and Altadena and one in Los Angeles they say are homes to men and women affiliated with a violent Pasadena street gang suspected of seven recent shootings. Ten weapons, ranging from shotguns to semi-automatic handguns, were also recovered in the operation, said Lt. Randell Taylor of the Pasadena Police Department's detectives section.
The primary mission was to arrest those involved in the Nov. 30 shooting death of 16-year-old Jermaine Williams at Painter Street and Summit Avenue in Pasadena, said Lt. John Perez of the Pasadena Police Department's special enforcement section, the operation's tactical commander. Williams, who police say was a gang member, was shot in the head and back while leaning into a car talking to a friend, Taylor said.
The veritable army of officers in armored vehicles, police cars and SUVs was also intended to discourage other local gangs, Perez said. There are currently four gang "sets' at war in the city, and if they're not stopped they'll retaliate endlessly against each other, he said.
The operation was the largest ever assembled for a tactical operation in Pasadena, police said.
"We want to send a strong message that we're not going to put up with people getting shot on our streets, especially 16-year- old kids,' Perez said.
Dressed in SWAT gear, with guns drawn, the officers surrounded each location and summoned the residents by phone or bullhorn beginning at 5:01 a.m. All suspects complied with the officers' requests, and the only injury was to an animal- control officer who was bitten by a pit bull, police said.
Police arrested their primary suspect, believed to be the shooter in the Nov. 30 homicide, at a house in the 500 block of West Montana Avenue in Pasadena. A gun was also found at the location, police said. Taylor said the 17-year-old boy was booked on suspicion of murder, but further investigation is required before charges are filed with the District Attorney's Office, which must happen by Monday.
At another house in the 100 block of West Altadena Drive, about eight people walked out at gunpoint, with their hands in the air. Among them was an infant, carried by a woman, and a lanky young child wearing sweat pants, with arms stretched to the sky.
Lt. Elliot Kase of the Alhambra Police Department watched the scene and muttered, "It's not right, putting your kids in these situations.'
The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services contacted 20 children in the operation, and six were detained. The children who were removed from the homes will be placed with relatives or in foster care, said Emilio Mendoza of the Department of Children and Family Services.
Investigators from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will take action a gainst renters in two locations for allegedly conducting illegal activities in federally subsidized housing, Taylor said.
Gang violence was a major concern in Pasadena in the 1980s and early 1990s, with homicides annually numbering in the 20s. Many of the victims were juveniles. In 1996, newly arrived Pasadena police Chief Bernard Melekian made "No more dead kids' a motto. The department has had fewer than five homicides annually for the past several years.
But violence has been increasing in the past nine months as gang wars have resulted in numerous shootings, Perez said. The increase is partially attributed to four career criminals, also gang members, being released from prison back into the Pasadena community, Perez said. These veterans are instantly elevated to leadership positions in the gangs, which has resulted in increased recruiting and gang membership, he said.
The police response to gang violence must balance force with sensitivity to avoid alienating the community, Perez said. In the fall, members of the gang unit were criticized by some residents after a brawl involving officers and several young people. The police practice of stopping and patting down young African-American men was particularly questioned, and called a violation of civil rights by some critics.
Thursday morning, the police could have broken down doors and surprised suspects, Perez said. Instead, they surrounded the homes and told them to surrender. The technique is safer when multiple agencies with varying enforcement policies are involved, police said. It also diffuses violence which is especially important when so many women and children are present, Perez said.
"We're trying to get into one neighborhood and pull out one part that's the cancerous cell,' Perez said. "The priority is to keep the community intact.'
But losing the element of surprise when serving search warrants also has its drawbacks, because police risk losing valuable evidence in the minutes it takes for suspects to comply with orders, Taylor said.
Perez's community outreach also includes calling community leaders, including Joe Brown, president of the Pasadena NAACP, to inform them about the operation and answer any questions. Officers from the gang unit will also conduct home visits and community meetings in the coming weeks, he said.
Altadena resident Michael Baietti said he was thrilled when he saw the police outside the home in the 100 block of West Altadena Drive. The home is clearly a problem location, he said.
"It's patently obvious to everyone who drives down the street every day what those guys are doing there,' said Baietti, a local Realtor.
Also arrested in the operation were a 17-year-old male juvenile, from Pasadena, on charges of possession of illegal drugs; Andre Alleyne, 20, for allegedly receiving stolen property and possessing a concealed weapon; Tori Jenkins, 26, of Altadena, for allegedly possessing illegal drugs; and Diane Galloway, 42, of Pasadena, for an allegedly outstanding warrant.
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