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L.A., Glendale unite to fight gang

The cities seek an injunction against the Toonerville gang that operates along the Los Angeles River.

November 18, 2008|Richard Winton | Winton is a Times staff writer.

Lawyers for Los Angeles and Glendale have filed a civil lawsuit seeking a joint gang injunction to restrict the activities of Toonerville, a decades-old gang known for orchestrating killings and even a police ambush, officials said Monday.

Since the 1950s, the Toonerville gang's mostly Latino members have claimed a largely middle-class area of northeast Los Angeles that includes business warehouses and homes north of Los Feliz Boulevard between San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River.

Last year, one of its most notorious leaders, Timothy Joseph McGhee, was convicted of three murders and organizing an ambush of two LAPD officers in 2000.

Authorities believe McGhee, once among the U.S. Marshals' most wanted, was responsible for as many as a dozen homicides.

"Gangs and gang members do not observe jurisdictional or legal boundaries, and they often commit their crimes across city lines," said Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who sought the injunction with Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard.

Delgadillo, who attended school in the area, said gang members terrorized the community then as they do today.

"Over 30 years ago, when I went to Irving Middle School, I wished they'd had an injunction," he said. "This will allow us to cut the gang down to size."

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, requests a preliminary injunction to prevent the 450-member Toonerville gang from engaging in criminal and nuisance activities within a 4.5-square-mile area of northeast Los Angeles along the Los Angeles River and parts of Glendale.

It would also apply to a 1.25-square-mile area in Sunland and Tujunga, where another pocket of the gang exists.

The proposed injunction, like 38 already enforced against 63 gangs in Los Angeles, would limit the ability of members to associate in public with one another, to intimidate witnesses, to sell or possess drugs, or to possess weapons or graffiti tools.

"Gang members know no jurisdictional boundaries," says Glendale Police Chief Randy G. Adams. "It is incumbent upon us to work together to ensure there is no safe haven for these individuals as we move forward with these injunctions."

If approved, the injunction would require Toonerville members to keep out of Chevy Chase Park in Los Angeles and Palmer Park in Glendale -- two spots used by the gang to meet and sell narcotics, according to Bruce Riordan, the L.A. city attorney's chief gang prosecutor.

The injunction also includes the new Americana outdoor mall, because gang members sometimes try to congregate in such areas, Riordan said.

Riordan said the lawsuit does not name specific gang members but would apply to dozens of members who over the weekend were served with legal papers as a precursor to the injunction and those who will be served in coming days. Gang members can receive up to six months in jail for violating the terms of the injunction. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca requires gang members jailed for injunction violations to serve their full term.

Studies have shown that the injunctions have a small but positive effect on gang crimes. But critics have questioned their value, pointing out that gang members often just move to another area and that authorities too often involve innocent youths or former members in the court action.

To address that issue, the L.A. city attorney last month established a process allowing people to be removed from injunctions if they can show they are not involved in gang activity.

The proposed injunction is the second collaboration between Glendale and Los Angeles authorities this year, coming on the heels of a joint operation, along with federal authorities, that led to the arrest of 70 members and associates of the Drew Street clique of the larger Avenues gang.

A court hearing on the proposed injunction is slated for Thursday.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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