Calling it an act of domestic terrorism, Hemet police are on high alert after a booby trap targeting members of a gang task force went off, narrowly missing an officer as he left his car to open a gate.
The is the second time in recent months that members of the Hemet-San Jacinto Gang Task Force have been targeted in a potentially fatal incident.
In Tuesday's attack, an officer was stepping out of his car to open a security gate at the task force's Hemet headquarters when there was a loud crack and a bullet flew just a few feet from him, landing 100 yards away in a driveway.
"It was an improvised device capable of firing a regular bullet, and it was attached in such a way so that when the gate was opened it activated and fired. Fortunately, it narrowly missed," Hemet Police Lt. Duane Wisehart said. "The gun was affixed to a fence and hard to see. It could have definitely killed someone. This is domestic terrorism."
On New Year's Day, someone cut a hole in the roof of the building, rerouted a natural gas pipeline and opened the valve, filling the office with gas. Police said an explosion could have easily been set off had they not discovered the leak and emptied the building.
Wisehart said the device found this week wasn't overly sophisticated but was deadly nonetheless. In addition to local officers, the building houses investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the Probation Department and the district attorney's office.
The unit is in the process of moving to another location.
Wisehart said Hemet has about 1,000 gang members, many of whom moved there from Los Angeles, drawn by low housing prices. There are no suspects in this case.
"It could be one person who is mad at the police or the gang task force," he said. "Everyone is being much more vigilant of their surroundings. We don't know how far this person is willing to go. It's unnerving."