It sounds straight out of a Hollywood western: In one day, at dawn, the “good guys” nab 30 men and one woman off the streets, putting them away for past killings and robberies. Even the name of the operation could double as a movie title: “Operation Stampede.”
Law enforcement officers from a number of agencies around San Diego County worked together Friday to served search warrants in the early hours of the morning.
They arrested nearly two dozen gang members -- some suspected in five homicides – after a five-month investigation focusing on one gang in the Southeastern section of San Diego.
Besides murder, authorities say those crimes involved assaults, robberies, drug dealing and gun-running.
The suspects arrested today join nine others already taken into custody. Three more are still at large.
Zendejas is also accused of gunning down a 21-year-old man and wounding two women in front of an Imperial Avenue liquor store.
The suspects are said to be part of the 'Southeast Locos' gang that operated from Highway 94 to Imperial Ave from 60th street to the I-805/Euclid Avenue area. More than half the membership is now behind bars.
“The 31 people arrested today won’t be part of that gang for the next few years, and possibly for the rest of their lives,” said Lt. Andy Mills with the SDPD Street Gangs Unit.
Authorities don't usually identify gangs by name, so as not to give them notoriety. However, they made an exception with this one, to send a message to the 90-odd others in town.
"If you commit violent crimes in the city, the San Diego Police Department and its partners will come after you with everything we have. And as a result, you can see that the Southeast Locos is not nearly what it once was. And will continue to be hurt for many years," said Mills.
“This investigation is not over. We will continue to relentlessly pursue those who are violent in this city. That is our mandate and we will continue to do that,” said Mills.
Fourteen firearms were seized today alone bringing the total to nearly four dozen confiscated or bought by undercover agents in the course of the investigation.
Charges have been filed against 10 of those arrested. Six face murder charges and could be sentenced to life in prison.