In one of the largest gang sweeps in recent county history, 175 police officers raided 18 homes early Friday and arrested a Saticoy man on suspicion of fatally wounding a Cabrillo Village man last month.
Police arrested Rudy Leo Martinez, 21, at his home and booked him at County Jail, where officials said he was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Arraignment is set for Tuesday.
In a brief statement released Friday evening, Ventura police Sgt. Bob Anderson said only that Martinez was suspected of killing 37-year-old Jose Guadalupe Gutierrez, who investigators have described as an innocent victim of gang violence.
Friday's sweep, coordinated by the Ventura Police Department, also led to the arrest of a Meiners Oaks man for possessing a billy club, and to the seizure of two firearms.
Ventura police Lt. Steve Bowman said it will take several days for lab tests to determine whether either of those guns was used in the slaying of Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, a father of four, was killed the night of Oct. 1 as he stood chatting with a friend outside a small building where he had led an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Police say a single, small-caliber bullet, fired from more than 100 feet away, pierced Gutierrez's heart.
Residents said they heard several shots, and detectives believe the bullets were fired by gang members from railroad tracks just outside Cabrillo Village.
Anderson, who is leading the homicide investigation, said Friday morning that police had no information that anyone intended to hit Gutierrez.
"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Anderson had said after the shooting.
Gutierrez's death left his two daughters and two sons, ages 5 to 18, without a parent. Their mother had died of cancer several years before.
Bowman said all of the individuals targeted in Friday's raids are members of the street gang believed responsible for the shooting. Bowman said police would not name the gang because they do not want to give the group notoriety.
He said a large number of officers was needed to serve all 13 search warrants simultaneously at 6 a.m., and because of the potential that the gang members would be armed.
"We do that so word doesn't filter out that we're there," Bowman said.
The raids were a combination of probation searches and search warrants that were signed by Municipal Court Judge James Cloninger.
Participating were officers from every police department in the county along with deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, probation officers and investigators from the district attorney's office.
Bowman said more than 40 Ventura officers, some of whom were on overtime, took part in the operation. Officers on the SWAT team forced their way into several homes when residents did not immediately open the doors. No one was injured, he said.
Ten of the targeted homes were in Saticoy, two in Ventura and two in Santa Paula. Officers also searched homes in the cities of Camarillo, Oxnard and Ojai and the communities of El Rio and Meiners Oaks.
The Meiners Oaks arrest came when officers rousted Sandro Mendez, 18, at his home and found a billy club, an illegal weapon. He was booked into County Jail and was being held in lieu of $10,000 bail.
In addition to the two arrests, detectives questioned four other alleged gang members at the Ventura police station after the raids. Anderson was not available Friday evening to say if Martinez was one of the four.
Anderson said police would release little information about the investigation because of the difficulty in solving gang crimes.
Multi-agency raids have become a common law enforcement tactic in Ventura County, since a "zero-tolerance" policy for gang-related crimes was announced in 1992.
Police say the raids are intended to send a message to all gang members, even if few arrests are made.
"Since gang units came into being in the last five years, we're doing a pretty good job at closing out these types of cases," Bowman said.