RICHGROVE – Nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies came together on Aug. 25 to serve search warrants in two Tulare County communities in an attempt to identify gang members and seize illegal weapons.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of several other law enforcement agencies, served 23 search warrants simultaneously in the cities of Richgrove and Delano.
The search warrants are known in the law enforcement community as “Gang Association” warrants, officials said.
“Serving each location at the same time allows us to keep evidence from being moved from one location to another and deters communication between gang associates during the detail,” said Sgt.Rob Moore, supervisor for the South County Team of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Gang Violence Suppression Unit.
Gang Association warrants are different from regular search warrants because they don’t justify a specific person, time or place, he said.
They identify a specific gang and its members who are involved in criminal activities, and allow law enforcement officials to search for evidence of crimes known to be committed by these specific gangs, according to the sheriff’s office.
The warrants also help officers identify people who are associated with specific gangs and validate them as gang members.
“A (Gang) Association warrant is helpful in the fact that not only have we identified affiliates of these gangs and known gang members, but now we are able to identify those who are hiding under the protection of lying to law enforcement or lying to the court system and now we are able to associate them with an actual gang or associate them with gang members,” said Mike Boudreaux with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Investigation Bureau.
The sheriff’s office served the warrants in the cities of Richgrove and Delano due to the high level of criminal activity reported in the area.
“The Richgrove area had numerous complaints from citizens involving acts of violence. Some of those acts of violence include shootings and we were specifically looking for gang members
affiliated or associated with these known gang groups involved in these acts,” Boudreaux said.
Through a thorough investigation, it was discovered that several subjects and addresses for assaults and drive-by shootings in the area were associated with the Northern and Southern criminal street gangs,
according to the sheriff’s office.
While serving the 23 search warrants, officers conducted 56 field interviews and made four arrests. They also seized six handguns, 10 rifles, two assault rifles, a baton, nunchucks, ammunition, and other miscellaneous items including gang indicia, cell phones, flash drives, and laptops.
Suspects arrested were: Victor Castro, 20; Veronica Luis Perez, 33; Luis Cortez, 19; and Jose Salazar, 33.