10/27/2006

Calif.: 15 arrests as Project Trojans gang is hit again

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
Copyright 2006 San Francisco Chronicle
All Rights Reserved

In a second such raid this year, 200 federal and local law-enforcement officers targeting one of Northern California's most violent street gangs swooped down on North Richmond on Wednesday, arresting 15 people on drug charges.

The arrests took place during simultaneous 10 a.m. raids as Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, Richmond police and FBI SWAT team members served 12 federal arrest warrants and 14 search warrants.

As a sheriff's helicopter circled overhead, FBI agents dressed in camouflage jumpsuits swarmed the area during the raids, during which authorities lobbed "flash-bang" grenades to disorient suspects.

Several people were detained in the area of Fifth and Market streets in North Richmond, an unincorporated community of 4,000 residents that police say is a hotbed for drug sales, shootings and violence.

"Our goal is to take the violence out of North Richmond," Contra Costa County sheriff's Lt. Kitty Parker said at the scene.

Nearly a pound of methamphetamine was recovered during the raids, said Jimmy Lee, Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman.

At least six suspects sought Wednesday face federal drug and gang-related charges that will remain sealed pending their appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Wayne Brazil in Oakland, said Special Agent Joseph Schadler, FBI spokesman in San Francisco.

Others suspects were arrested on state charges. The names of the people weren't released.

Some people sought Wednesday are alleged members or associates of the Project Trojans street gang. On March 14, a similar raid by FBI agents and local police resulted in the indictment of 15 people affiliated with the gang on charges of cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking.

Police say the 300 or so members of the Project Trojans, classified by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the most violent African American street gangs in Northern California, are responsible for much of the area's bloodshed.

The gang, also called PJT, has long been selling drugs on North Richmond's streets, and feuds over turf and drug sales have sparked violence, according to police.

A group of residents standing at the corner of Fifth and Market on Wednesday voiced displeasure at the operation. One woman, who declined to give her name, said officers should be spending time solving homicides. "It don't make no sense," she said.

But authorities said the recent raids in North Richmond were aimed at stemming the tide of violence that is associated with drug and gang activity.

"It's a continual process to make this community safer," said David Johnson, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in San Francisco. "It's going to take some time to make inroads in this particular community." 

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