L.A., Glendale seek injunction against Toonerville gang

The lawsuit seeks to stop gang members from engaging in criminal and nuisance activities in areas of Northeast Los Angeles, Glendale, and Sunland and Tujunga.
By Richard Winton
2:03 PM PST, November 17, 2008
Lawyers for Los Angeles and Glendale have filed a civil lawsuit seeking a joint gang injunction to restrict the activities of Toonerville, a decades-old gang known for orchestrating killings and even a police ambush, officials said today.

The Toonerville gang’s mostly Latino members have since the 1950s claimed a largely middle-class area of northeast Los Angeles that includes business warehouses and homes north of Los Feliz Boulevard between San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River.

Last year, one of its most notorious leaders, Timothy Joseph McGhee, was convicted of three murders and organizing an ambush of two LAPD officers in 2000. Authorities believe McGhee, once among the U.S. Marshals’ most wanted, was responsible for as many as a dozen homicides.

“Gangs and gang members do not observe jurisdictional or legal boundaries and they often commit their crimes across city lines,” said Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who along with Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard sought the injunction.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, requests a preliminary injunction to prevent the Toonerville gang from engaging in criminal and nuisance activities within a 4.5- square-mile area of Northeast Los Angeles along the Los Angeles River and parts of Glendale. It would also apply to a 1.25-square-mile area in Sunland and Tujunga, where another pocket of the gang exists.

The proposed injunction, like 38 already enforced against 63 gangs in Los Angeles, would limit the ability of members of the gang to associate in public with other members, to intimidate witnesses, to sell or possess drugs, or to possess weapons or graffiti tools.

“Gang members know no jurisdictional boundaries,” says Glendale Police Chief Randy G. Adams. “It is incumbent upon us to work together to ensure there is no safe haven for these individuals as we move forward with these injunctions.

If approved, the injunction would require Toonerville members to keep out of Chevy Chase Park in Los Angeles and Palmer Park in Glendale — two spots used by the Toonerville gang to meet and sell narcotics, according to Bruce Riordan, the L.A. city attorney’s chief gang prosecutor.

The injunction also includes the new Americana outdoor shopping mall because gang members sometimes try to congregate in such areas, Riordan said.

Riordan said the lawsuit does not name specific gang members but would rather apply to dozens of gang members served over the weekend and in coming days with the injunction. Gang members can receive up to six months in jail for violating the terms of the injunction. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca requires gang members jailed for injunction violations to serve their full term.

Studies have shown that the injunctions have a small but positive impact on gang crimes. But critics have questioned their value, pointing out that gang members will often just move to another area and authorities too often wrap up innocent youths or former members in the court action.

To address that issue, the city attorney last month established a process allowing people to be removed from the injunction if they can show they are not involved in gang activity.

The proposed injunction is the second collaboration between Glendale and Los Angeles authorities this year, coming on the heels of a joint operation that along with federal authorities led to 70 members and associates of the Drew Street clique of the larger Avenues gang.

A court hearing on the proposed injunction is slated for Thursday.

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