Police, feds launch raids on suspected gang members

By LAURA WIDES

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities arrested 43 alleged gang members Wednesday in a drug raid aimed at one of the most violent gangs in the city.

The early morning operation targeted leaders of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang, which authorities said has a history of attacking police and bystanders in South Los Angeles.

“It is one of the most violent street gangs in the history of L.A., and this morning we arrested essentially the hierarchy of the gang,” FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said.

FBI agents and police stormed the Nickerson Gardens public housing complex, knocking down doors and exploding flash-bang grenades as they rounded up the suspects.

Police shut down nearby schools and cordoned off a wide area, leaving some neighbors temporarily stuck inside their homes.

Federal agents arrested 13 people for investigation of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other charges. Los Angeles police took another 30 suspects into custody on drug-related charges.

The arrests came after a yearlong undercover investigation in which federal and local authorities used wiretaps to monitor an alleged cocaine ring.

Los Angeles police Chief William J. Bratton said the raid was an indication that gang violence “cannot be dealt with just by local police agencies, local jurisdiction, that in fact a federal government presence is necessary.”

Federal officers also raided the housing project in 2000, arresting 30 gang members who were later convicted of distributing crack cocaine.

“The good news for the community is that historically over repeated takedowns like the one from this morning, we have seen a decrease in violence in the affected neighborhoods,” McLaughlin said. “By the same token, we recognize the fight is not over.”

McLaughlin said the agency continues to target street gangs in Los Angeles, even though the agency’s recent focus has been on terrorism.

Last month, police officers were shot at in two separate ambushes at Nickerson Gardens that investigators attributed to the gang.

In 1995, a member of the Bounty Hunter Bloods was sentenced to death for the execution-style murders of two Compton police officers near the complex. A year later, a gang member shot and killed an 82-year-old grandmother as she returned from church, police said.

In an apparently unrelated incident earlier Wednesday, shots were fired at a police squad car during a traffic stop near the complex. Police arrested two suspects and searched for a third person.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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