By Tony Dodero
Anaheim gang investigators struck a crippling blow to a fledgling street gang recently, arresting the leader and three other members and confiscating an assault rifle as they prepared for battle with a rival gang, officials said.
The leader, Juan Pena, and three juvenile gang associates were picked up and a .38-revolver and a SKS assault rifle were seized during the months-long investigation, officials said. Three of the four suspects face a number of charges including conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, gang member in possession of weapons and gang enhancements.
“They are looking at a lot of time (behind bars),” said Sgt. Mike Haggerty, the supervisor of Anaheim Police Department’s gang detail.
The arrests illustrate Anaheim PD’s strategic effort to crack down on criminal street gangs, especially new ones to ensure they don’t become entrenched in the community, he said.
“It goes without saying we are going out there to hammer these gangs,” Haggerty said. “Our job is to identify these gangs and then hit them with search warrants and get rid of them early. They are on the front burner.”
The arrests were sparked by a rise in tension between a relatively new gang and an existing street gang involved in several incidents in Southwest Anaheim. The recent arrests will put a damper on the new gang’s future activities, Haggerty said.
The gang is suspected to be involved in shooting the tip off the nose of a rival at Maxwell Park in December. A nearby fire station was also hit during the assault. Another shooting and confrontation took place at a fast food restaurant on the corner of Ball Road and Dale Avenue and two members of the gang later confronted rivals at a Beach Boulevard motel.
They are also suspected of breaking into the home of another rival and shooting at him while he was on a couch.
The gang’s activity seemed to increase after the release of Pena from prison in January. Pena was friends with one of the gang’s founders who was shot and killed near the corner of Euclid Street and Cerritos Avenue in July of 2008, Haggerty said. Members of the rival gang are suspected in that shooting.
Haggerty said the gang battle was unusually protracted.
“It was obviously something personal here,” Haggerty said. Also, he said the nature of the weapons confiscated show the gang was planning more violence.
“That SKS rifle could kill several people at one time,” he said of the assault weapon that was purchased on the street for $400. “That goes to show you the mentality of that gang.”