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Community News: Santa Monica

Police Break Up Gang Meeting in Father's Day Raid at Park


Santa Monica police converged on Marine Park on Sunday to break up a meeting between two suspected gangs believed to be negotiating a weapons sale for a possible attack on a rival gang, authorities said.

One man was arrested in the raid, which startled nearby picnickers gathered to celebrate Father's Day at the park on Marine Street near the Santa Monica Airport. Ricardo Valdivia, 22, of Los Angeles, was arrested on suspicion of possessing a concealed weapon. He was the only one who was armed, said Sgt. Gary Gallinot.

Police were tipped off by Los Angeles police about the meeting between gangs from Venice and Gardena, Gallinot said. About 10 officers from Santa Monica's anti-gang unit had the park under surveillance.

About 6:45 p.m., 30 to 35 suspected gang members gathered in the park's handball court, Gallinot said. While watching the group, police saw a man try to hide a .32-caliber automatic handgun in a bush, Gallinot said. Concerned that other gang members were armed, officers swept in with shotguns and handguns and ordered all the men to the ground.

The raid was staged near families celebrating Father's Day.

"Once we saw the gun, we assumed others would have them, too," Gallinot said. "If we let those people disperse among those picnicking at the park, then it would have been dangerous."

The stakeout was part of a continuing surveillance of the gangs, who authorities suspect have been conspiring to attack another unidentified gang.

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