Calif. police, ATF nab 90 suspects in operation

Authorities announced results of a four-month joint effort dubbed 'Operation Gideon III'


By Terry Collins
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Law enforcement officials said Tuesday that nearly 100 guns and dozens of violent criminals have been taken off the streets of Oakland as part of an ongoing multiagency crackdown involving undercover federal and local officers.

Proclaiming that "the worst of the worst offenders" are behind bars, authorities announced their results from a four-month joint effort, dubbed "Operation Gideon III."

Special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Oakland police and other agencies nabbed 90 people who face federal and state charges and seized 92 firearms as well as several kilograms of methamphetamine, marijuana and crack cocaine. The arrests started in February.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said during a news conference Tuesday that she hoped the arrests send a strong message to repeat violent offenders.

"We are watching," Haag said. "We will find you, we will prosecute you and you will be removed from the community."

Haag also thanked the officers who took down those "who embraced violence and who carried guns in the way most of us carry cellphones."

Known as one of the most violent cities in America, Oakland's "Operation Gideon" is similar to crackdowns conducted in Phoenix and San Diego.

In Oakland, those facing federal charges include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, attempting to interfere with interstate commerce through robbery, unlawful dealing in firearms and assaulting federal agents. Those facing state charges include illegal possession of drugs and guns and probation violations.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said Tuesday that discussions about a local-federal partnership began nearly two years ago, but intensified, especially after three little boys were among the city's 110 homicides, last year.

Carlos "Carlito" Nava, 3, was gunned down while being pushed in a stroller by his mother in August.

In December, Hiram Lawrence was taken off life support after being shot in the head while in his father's arms during the filming of a rap video. He died nearly three weeks shy of his second birthday.

Three weeks later, 5-year-old Gabriel Martinez, Jr., was shot and killed near his father's food truck.

Jordan said he and police brass implored Mayor Jean Quan to seek federal help as Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also got involved in meetings with federal law enforcement leaders in Washington, D.C.

"All recognized that in order to make a difference, we need to work together," Jordan said. "We have a commitment."

Scot Thomasson, an acting special agent in charge for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said that seasoned ATF agents from across the country came to work with local authorities to help combat crime in the operation's initial wave.

Jordan and Thomasson both said the collaboration will continue indefinitely.

Jordan said the operation has taken a powerful first step as Oakland has seen a 49 percent drop in violent crime between April and May. He said homicides have decreased from 14 in April to 5 in May, so far.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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