HANFORD — Multiple law enforcement agencies announced Wednesday the conclusion of a five-month investigation that targeted suspected gang members across four Central Valley counties.
The announcement comes just a day after 54 individuals were arrested in Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings counties during "Operation Red Reaper", said Kings County Assistant Sheriff Robert Thayer in a news conference.
In total, officials made 96 arrests, recovered 74 firearms — 14 of them fully automatic — and 11 pounds of methamphetamine in the investigation, Thayer said.
Over 15 agencies including local police departments, sheriff offices, the California Department of Justice and FBI worked together to target the suspected gang members.
Many members are believed to have been taking orders to commit violent crime and drug trafficking from the Nuestra Familia gang within the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, Thayer said.
A total of 21 individuals at Pleasant Valley were charged federally, according to U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.
Individuals from the Nuestra Familia gang used contraband cell phones in prison to contact and order members such as the Norteño street gang, Scott said.
“Our desire truly is to make our communities as safe as we possibly can; but this isn’t over, by any means,” Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said at the Wednesday press conference. “Gangs are not going to go away, but we have to be vigilant in that fight. I want every gang member to hear...we will be coming after you. And we want you to know that we take this seriously and we take our community seriously.”
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Charges on gang members include murder, robbery, drug trafficking and more, Thayer said.
Among those arrested were Jose Quintero and Fredie Quair, two gang members who are suspected of being involved in an officer-involved shooting that occurred early Tuesday morning, Thayer said.
While officers were getting ready to serve arrest warrants in Operation Red Reaper, they heard of a home invasion in Corcoran around 3 a.m., where they found one suspect shot, Thayer said.
They arrested Quintero and Quair as additional suspects in the home invasion in a traffic stop about two hours later.
During the stop, Quair exited the vehicle and “fashioned an isosceles shape”, a typical position a suspect takes when confronting officers with a weapon, Thayer said.
A Kings County deputy and three Department of Justice officers at the stop opened fire, injuring both Quintero and Quair, who is still in the hospital. Quintero was treated and released.
The third home invasion suspect who was wounded on the premises is still in the hospital, authorities said.
“This is the third time in a decade we have come together to take out the Nuestra Familia in Kings County,” Scott said. “If we have to come back a fourth time, we will.”