A 10-hour sweep Thursday through Merced County by law enforcement resulted in the arrest of 75 suspected gang members, including those sought for violent crimes like murder and attempted murder.
The investigation, named Operation Red Right Hand, represents the culmination of a five month long joint investigation into the Norteno criminal street gang and the Nuestra Familia prison gang, which authorities suspect have been responsible for numerous violent crime and drug offenses in Merced County for the past few years.
“This operation captured dangerous criminals that are suspected of committing homicides throughout the Central Valley,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “We will continue to dismantle violent street and prison gang networks by cutting off their flow of money, recruits and communications."
Operation Red Right Hand began after a series of gang related homicides in Merced County that started in 2013. The multi-agency investigation aimed to identify Nortenos gang members and associates most likely to participate in or carry out violent crime, dismantle the sources of income for the gang, remove known recruiters within the organization and disrupt communications, according to the Department of Justice.
The investigation found that the Nortenos had authorized a war against the Crip criminal street gangs in Merced. In addition, investigators learned that Nuestra Familia, a California prison gang, had instructed the local Nortenos gang to kill and assault members who decided to drop out of the organization.
Of the 75 people arrested, 50 were booked into the Merced County Jail on various charges, including homicide, attempted homicide, accessory to murder or attempted murder, conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and assault likely to produce great bodily injury, weapons possession, and sales of narcotics or counterfeit items. Twenty-five individuals were released without charges being filed at this time, though that could change pending additional investigation.
In addition to the arrests, authorities seized 5,000 pirated DVDs, 1,500 pseudoephedrine pills, $85,000 in cash, 11 firearms, four pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of cocaine, one pound of heroin and 50 pounds of marijuana according to the DOJ.
The joint investigation and the sweep was carried out by the California Department of Justice and California Highway Patrol’s Special Operations Unit, Merced Police Department, Merced County Sheriff’s Department, Merced County District Attorney's Office, Merced Multi-Agency Narcotic Task Force, the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking team, Atwater Police Department, Los Banos Police Department, Merced County Probation Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Parole Division.