Federal agents raid Oakland building

May 28, 2008 7:30:59 PM PDT
Federal Drug Enforcement Agents launched an early morning raid in the Bay Area, targeting what they say is a major marijuana ring.

The DEA says Wednesday's roundup of evidence could bring down the ringleaders of a very large operation. They raided at least three locations the Bay Area, including an Oakland site just blocks from the Oakland Highway Patrol Office.

The building where the raid took place appears to be vacant. One woman said she could smell the pot, and some neighbors also say they've long been suspicious.

"There was a SWAT van and a whole bunch of cars and we saw about 20 officers surround the building and break in the back door," said witness Mike Neldam.

Neldam watched the action from his bakery across the street.

"There were quite a few of them. They had guns, rifles and big baton type things walking in the back of the building across the street. It was kind of scary, kind of scary to us," said Witness Linda Lucas.

Witnesses say agents spent hours hauling out marijuana plant growing materials, including lights, tubes and boxes with vents.

"We made entry into this warehouse and seized evidence, good drug and non-drug evidence that's helping further our investigation," said DEA Special-agent-in-charge Javier Pena.

Similar raids took place simultaneously on Wednesday morning in San Leandro, San Mateo and other locations north of the Bay Area, according to the DEA.

"It's a sophisticated organization anytime you have multiple search warrants. It's a big organization. As I've said before, we go after the biggest and baddest traffickers out there," said Pena.

Officials would not disclose details, but one unnamed DEA source is quoted as saying the raids are aimed at major distributors in the upper echelons of the marijuana trade. Meanwhile, drug sniffing dogs checked out the parking lot and adjacent house.

While this is not one of Oakland's official medical marijuana dispensaries, some residents believe it may be a supplier.

"Just yesterday in Los Angeles, six medical marijuana dispensaries were raided by the DEA in very much the same para-military style," said Rebecca Saltzman from Americans for Safe Access. "The DEA is interrupting enforcement of our state law. They're coming into California and raiding these dispensaries, scaring people."

But neighbors expressed relief that the operation was shut down.

"They're finally cleaning Oakland up, praise the Lord, thank you, it's like one step at a time," said neighbor Sherry Verdon.

There have been no arrests so far in these series of Northern California raids, and officials say they are linked together. They say they have been working not for months, but for years to crack these organizations.

They also said they'll be back and they hope to have some arrests very soon.


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