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8 Alleged Gang Members Arrested in Raid : Police: Authorities search 12 homes and seize 14 firearms in effort to solve two slayings that occurred this month.


On the day after Christmas, Pasadena police delivered season's greetings to a gang they consider one of the city's most violent. Hoping to solve two recent murder cases and quash a crime surge, about 40 officers staged early morning raids at a dozen suspected gang members' homes.

Under a 1988 state law that makes it a crime to participate in a street gang, police arrested eight suspected gang members and seized 14 firearms, plus ammunition and items identified as gang paraphernalia.

Four of alleged gang members named in the search warrant were not present when officers searched their homes. They are still being sought. Nevertheless, police called the unusual operation a success.

"We did real well. We're very pleased," Lt. Van B. Anthony said after the raids.

He said the crackdown was not deliberately timed to spoil the Christmas season for gang members or to curb their activity just before thousands of visitors converge on Pasadena for the Tournament of Roses.

"We would do this regardless of what time of year it is," Anthony said. But he added, "I think it will have some beneficial effect on the Rose Parade."

On Christmas Eve, Pasadena police obtained a search warrant listing a dozen homes. Anthony said residents were believed to be "connected with a particular gang that's been particularly violent of late." He asked that the gang's name not be published.

None of the alleged gang members were arrested on suspicion of a specific act, but Anthony said police hoped to find evidence linking them to two murders committed earlier this month.

One was the Dec. 18 walk-by shooting of Johnny Juan Perez, 33, outside the Zahida Market. Perez was believed to be a bystander hit by shots fired at a gang member who was also standing outside the market.

In a Dec. 2 incident, Walter McDonald was fatally shot while changing the oil in his car outside an auto parts store in the 700 block of North Lake Avenue. The shooting was also believed to be the result of gang rivalry.

Just before Thursday's raid, Anthony told reporters: "The main objective is to gather up as many weapons as we can, process them against evidence we have from crime scenes and see if it matches."

In making the arrests, Pasadena officers used the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, a measure adopted by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in September, 1988. Responding to a rise in gang violence, state lawmakers created additional penalties for those who commit crimes in the course of gang activity.

Pasadena police seized gang paraphernalia, including clothing, written material and photographs, because it can be used to help prove gang membership.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark S. Arnold said the search warrant was issued after investigators obtained information linking the gang to the two recent killings. A dozen locations were searched because gang members traditionally pass a firearm to another member after a shooting.

"They don't want to get caught with the evidence, but they don't want to get rid of the gun because the gang may want to use it again, either offensively or defensively," Arnold said.

He said the 1988 law is used to increase the sentence of gang members convicted of other felonies but is seldom the sole basis for prosecution. Arnold said he will evaluate the police reports to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to file charges.

If not, some or all of those arrested Thursday could be released, he said. Even if that happens, however, he can obtain a court order to destroy the seized guns as a public nuisance, the prosecutor said.

"Maybe this isn't going to work," Lt. Anthony said Thursday afternoon. "But we're going to give it a shot. Even if it all comes unwound, we've still got 14 guns off the street."

Before Thursday's raids, five police teams, including uniformed officers, plainclothes detectives and sheriff's deputies, assembled at the Pasadena police station at 6 a.m. for a briefing. The officers were told to search for weapons, not drugs. Police supervisors recommended that the officers knock and attempt to gain voluntary permission to enter each home.

An older wooden house in the 200 block of Parke Street was designated a "high-risk entry" site because it was believed to be the home of several leaders of the targeted street gang. Firefighters and paramedics parked nearby as a precaution while members of the Police Department's Neighborhood Crime Task Force surrounded the home.

Officers soon led Lorenzo Newborn, 21, out of the house, handcuffed and clad only in shorts and socks. Newborn, a suspected gang leader, reacted angrily to the arrest and kicked at a news photographer who was taking his picture.

A second resident, Timothy Earl Mims, 30, was led away immediately afterward. A third suspect, Laward Looney, 18, of Altadena, was arrested later when he drove past the house and was recognized by officers.

All three were booked on suspicion of participating in a criminal street gang, with bail set at $10,000 each.

Inside the cluttered house, a Christmas tree and still-wrapped presents brought a touch of holiday spirit to the living room. During a search of the dwelling, officers seized a shotgun, a rifle, a handgun and gang paraphernalia.

No arrests were made at six of the 12 search locations. However, police said they seized either weapons or gang items at all 12 locations.

In raids at other houses, officers arrested Michael Marcello Thomas, 19; Fernando Van Ness Hodges, 19; Ishmael Van Offuti, 20; and Darryl Lynell David, 20. All were placed in Pasadena City Jail, also on the gang participation charges. The eighth suspect, a 16-year-old juvenile, was released to his parents.

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