SAN DIEGO — One hundred and two people wanted on high-risk warrants were arrested this week in a countywide sweep that involved 23 law enforcement agencies and dozens of federal, state and local officers.
Dubbed “Operation Free Bird,” the effort that took place Wednesday and Thursday also netted five weapons, more than $70,000 in drugs and $13,000 in cash, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Errol Watson.
Two marijuana grows were dismantled and stolen police gear, including ballistic vests, and at least one stolen vehicle were also recovered, Watson said.
The operation targeted some 400 suspects including gang members and sex offenders wanted on a litany of crimes including homicides, armed robberies, assaults, battery on police officers, robbery and weapons violations. Most had extensive criminal histories, said Watson.
Headed up by the U.S. Marshals Service with the San Diego County Probation Department, the sweep involved some 150 to 180 officers from every local law enforcement department in the county as well as agents with the Border Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, State Department, Department of Homeland Security, California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and the San Diego District Attorney’s office.
“This is the largest cooperative sweep we’ve had in San Diego,” said Watson. “It’s a lot of manpower.” The officers split into 15 teams. After 6 a.m. briefings about the suspects they were looking the officers donned bullet proof vests and headed out.
One team headed to a downtown apartment complex on 13th Street where they were looking for a man wanted on grand theft charges.
“Is this the show ‘Cops’?” one astonished resident asked as eight officers crowded past him in the building’s narrow hallway. They knocked loudly on a door for several minutes and called out, demanding entry, before a barefoot woman emerged and claimed she did not know where their suspect was.
He returned home while officers were still there. He waited outside until he saw some of them leave, but then got arrested by other officers who had stayed behind. Todd Zeigler, 34, was booked into jail and held on $20,000 bail. A gun was located over the door inside his apartment, Watson said.
In Spring Valley, a man with an extensive criminal history and gang ties, wanted on a no-bail burglary warrant, was taken into custody. During the arrest officers found a hash oil lab and a .380-caliber Taurus handgun. Joshua Robles, 29, was jailed on several drug and weapon charges, Watson said.
One of those arrested in the sweep, in Mountain View, was shot with a stun gun while resisting. Bodeshia Smith, 58, was taken to a hospital afterward. His convictions include assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm, robbery, kidnapping, vehicle theft, possession and distribution of a controlled substance, resisting arrest, theft, and burglary.
The operation was one of the first of its kind in its size and scope, Watson said.
All of the resources involved were already allocated and no additional taxpayer funds were used.
“We asked other agencies – what can you bring to the table?” Watson said. Every department offered their own already budgeted personnel and resources.
“For us to get all these agencies together in one day is pretty good,” said Deputy Marshal Keara Villareal.
Watson said the Marshals Service hopes the operation will be a template for agencies across the country on how they can work together toward a single goal.