BALDWIN PARK — More than 120 officers congregated in the parking lot of the Iglesia de Cristo before dawn Thursday, gulping coffee, munching Danish and mapping out plans for the largest gang raid in this city's history.
In an effort to battle a recent rash of shootings, Baldwin Park police enlisted troops from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies--everyone from local school district officers to the sheriff's Special Weapons Team to state parole agents.
"It's an experience," said wide-eyed Mario Muniz, a 19-year-old Baldwin Park Police cadet and administration of justice student at Citrus College.
When the glow of sunrise began to illuminate the surrounding palms, the officers took off in a fleet of unmarked Chevrolet Caprices, armed with 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, bullet-proof vests and search warrants for 14 homes.
Two hours later, they returned to proudly display their haul: 17 rifles, five sawed-off shotguns (one of which was found in a violin case), 11 handguns, a 3-foot-long sword and a stiletto switchblade.
"That's a lot of dead bodies that won't be happening now," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Dennis E. Ferris, an Operation Hardcore gang prosecutor based in Pomona, as he eyed the weapons.
Taken into custody were five men and two juveniles, all suspected members of the same gang. The juveniles, not named because of their ages--15 and 17--were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with a recent shooting, officers said. No details of the shooting were released.
Albert Barragan, 23, and Adrian Gallegos, 23, were arrested on suspicion of possessing an illegal firearm. Steven Zepeda, 20, and Ramon Nunez, 19, were taken into custody for outstanding warrants. And Martin Barragan, 21, was arrested on suspicion of possessing narcotics.
"Looking at it realistically, we haven't solved the gang problem," Baldwin Park Lt. Mike Bennett said. "But we've removed this amount of guns and ammunition from the streets. . . . It only takes one gun and one bullet to commit a homicide."