A two-day gang sweep in Grant County that authorities said arrested violent criminals targeted mostly illegal immigrants and felons wanted for probation violations.
Law enforcement seized Ecstasy, methamphetamine and marijuana and suspected stolen property, including guns, and arrested 32 people, 11 of whom had previously been deported but returned to the country illegally, said John Turley, Grant County undersheriff.
The multi-agency effort, which included help from a Homeland Security helicopter and a Washington State Patrol ATV with infrared detection, is the first of several planned under a federal grant awarded to the county to combat its growing gang problem.
“It’s unbelievable the way that things have gone to hell down here,” Turley said.
The task force had 144 warrants when they began the sweep Monday. They learned from other arrestees that some were already in custody out of state, but Turley said authorities already are planning a second sweep.
“They’ll never know when that’s going to happen,” Turley said.
In light of a news release from the U.S. Marshals Office, Turley clarified that none of the warrants involved homicide charges, and that gang members wanted for attempted murder in Grant County have not been arrested.
The arrests came two weeks after a 10-year-old was shot in the head in a gang-related drive-by shooting just outside Royal City. No arrests have been made in that case, but Turley said it fueled law enforcement’s resolve.
“As long as they attack each other we don’t get too excited, but when they cross the line and they interfere with young children or people who aren’t a part of the system,” Turley said, “the wrath of hell is going to come down on them.”
The sweep was organized into five groups of five law enforcement officials. Drug and major crimes detectives were brought in to take over the crime scenes after arrests to keep the sweep moving quickly. The helicopter and ATV helped tremendously in catching three suspects who fled police, Turley said.
Many of the 32 arrested belonged to rival gangs authorities believe are responsible for retaliatory shootings and assaults. The alleged leader of a large gang, Arthur Frank Cardenas, 31, was held on a Department of Corrections warrant for a probation violation. A member of a large rival gang, Jose Ruvio Lopez, 24, was arrested on weapons charges and a warrant for fourth-degree assault. Juan R. Baeza was booked after police found three-quarters of an ounce of meth on him, Turley said.
Authorities had to bring in a second van to separate rival gang members after fights broke out, Turley said.
Arrests were made in Mattawa, Royal City, Quincy, Ephrata, Soap Lake, Moses Lake and Warden as well as rural parts of Grant and Adams counties on Monday and Tuesday. More than a dozen county, city, state and federal agencies participated in the effort, known as Basin Clean Sweep 2010.
Among those arrested were Santiago Herrejon Gonzalez (immigration violation, guns charges); Alfredo Garay Alvardo (second-degree assault); Ernest Jimenez (DOC warrant); Eric Perez Garcia (DOC warrant); Homero Calderon Ruiz (possession of meth with intent to deliver) Joaquin Guzman-Gurrusquieta (immigration violation); Edgar Avelar Sanchez (possession of stolen property, gun and drug charges); Jorge Luis Cazares Sosa (immigration violation); Neil C. Montgomery (possession of meth); Christopher Jones; Nilz Contreras Cortes, 23; Fernando Ramirez Rojas, 24; Alejandro Miguel Reyna, 21; Josue Emanuel Trinidad, 23; Jonathan L. Randall, 29; Corinne Annette Brice, 50; Tanna Fayelena Roybal, 24; Stephen Glenn Low, 41; Steven Allen Curtiz, 26; Nicholas Anthony Brice, 30; Steven Mario Perez, 23; Nelia Gamboa Contreras, 21; and Roberto Baeza-Rosales, 32.