7-month investigation leads to gang arrests


Nine military style assault weapons including a fully automatic AR-15 machine gun, a silencer and more than 1,500 rounds of ammo are off the streets of Salinas today.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue stood shoulder-to-shoulder with members of a joint law enforcement task force that includes the ATF, the FBI, the Dept. of Homeland Security and even the State Department. In all, more than 70 officers were involved and they say these few weapons could have been used in many crimes.

"Those are weapons that are now not in the hands of armed violent criminals. Those are weapons that are not trafficked to Mexican drug cartels," ATF special agent Stephen Herkins said.

Wednesday's effort was a continuation of what was called "Operation Knockout" from earlier this year when 200 federal, state and local officers conducted raids aimed at breaking the backs of the warring Norteño and Sureño gangs. Their turf wars now include drug trafficking with links to Mexican cartels.

Authorities say they haven't determined if the two suspects indicted and arrested are gang members, or if they supplied weapons to gangs, but the district attorney hopes the continued pressure curbs some of the brazen activities.

"The message that I would hope that they are seeing is that they cannot continue to move around our streets and communities with a sense of impunity," Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said.

In addition to the firearms, authorities found drugs and $22,000 in cash were confiscated after they searched two homes a business and vehicles.

"We have a long way to go. No one should be under any illusions there," Donohue said.

Authorities say they will keep the pressure on and they are asking residents to help with information to make the community safer.

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