Gun rigged to kill Calif. gang detectives

The bizarre booby trap is the second attack in 2 months on this task force

By John Asbury

HEMET, Calif. — For the second time in recent months, Hemet gang detectives have been targeted in an assassination attempt, this time through a gun rigged to fire at officers as they arrived at work.

A member of the Hemet-San Jacinto Gang Task Force stepped out of his car to open a rolling security gate at the task force office Tuesday afternoon when a bullet whizzed past within a few feet of him, Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart said. No one was injured.

An altered firearm had been set up as a booby trap attached to the fence around the office, which is off Florida Avenue near the Hemet police station, Wisehart said.

The incident happened about 1:30 p.m. It was the first time that day anyone had opened the gate, Wisehart said.

The bullet was recovered 100 yards away, in a nearby parking lot across Buena Vista Street, he said.

"It's getting to the point officers are more vigilant about their surroundings than ever before," Wisehart said. "This one was definitely close. It's a little unnerving."

The same building was targeted New Year's Eve by someone who rerouted a gas line that filled the office with natural gas. Police said the building could have exploded when someone stepped inside and turned on a light switch or caused static electricity.

No damage resulted. Officers opened the door, smelled natural gas and cleared the area, which was then ventilated.

Detectives investigating that incident were able to lift a fingerprint and DNA from the roof of the building. That is being studied .

Police said they suspect gang members were responsible in both cases, although the investigation has not been limited to gang members.

People whom the task force previously contacted or investigated will be examined to determine if they played a role in either act. No arrests have been made and no specific gangs or gang members have been linked to them.

There are no surveillance cameras on the property and police did not describe any additional security measures taken after the first attack, though the office was slated to move after the New Year's Eve incident. Officers remain at the site because a new building hasn't been found, Wisehart said.

Police did not receive any threats before either incident.

The first followed increased pressure being put on gangs throughout the San Jacinto Valley, but Wisehart said no additional enforcement had been going on.

About six officers work out of the location. The task force is made up of Hemet police officers, Riverside County sheriff's deputies, district attorney's investigators and parole and probation officers.

Copyright 2010 Press-Enterprise

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