Operation Snow Plow nets 16 gang arrests
By Josh Kleinbaum, Staff Writer
NORTH HOLLYWOOD - Standing in Luis Barbosa's makeshift bedroom in a shed behind his family's house, anti-gang officers realized how vulnerable they'd been just moments earlier.
It was 6 a.m. Thursday, and a closed-circuit television showed an image of the driveway - the route police took when they approached the house. The closet contained a gas mask and an SKS assault rifle with a makeshift laser sighting - perfect for a standoff with police.
"He could've easily taken out five or six of us before we had a chance to react," Lt. Kathleen Sheehan said. "We were lucky he was asleep when we got there."
Barbosa and 15 other gang members - eight adults and eight juveniles - were arrested in a dawn sweep aimed at reducing violence in the North Hollywood area.
Eight teams of Los Angeles Police Department officers from across the San Fernando Valley targeted 42 known gang members, performing parole or probation searches or serving arrest warrants on a variety of drugs and weapons charges. The sweep targeted several local gangs but focused on the notorious Vineland Boys.
"As long as the Vineland Boys are in existence, we're going to keep hitting them," said the LAPD's Dan Fournier, a North Hollywood gang officer. "The arrests are going to keep happening, and we're going to keep pressing them."
Law enforcement has focused on the Vineland Boys since Nov. 15, 2003, when two members engaged in a shootout with two Burbank police officers. Officer Matthew Pavelka was killed and his partner critically wounded. Gang member Ramon Aranda also was killed, and his alleged accomplice, David Garcia, faces capital murder charges.
In June, local and federal officers arrested 43 Vineland Boys, a raid that officials said crippled the gang. But now, North Hollywood police believe its members have begun to resurface.
"Over the course of the last two years, we've taken 265 of them to jail," Sheehan said. "We unsettled them for a while, and definitely have some of their real strong leadership in federal prison.
"But they've been recruiting taggers, and some of the junior members are moving up the ranks. There's been a little jump in crime as the junior members try to prove themselves."
Police arrested six Vineland Boys, including Barbosa, on Thursday. At least two local homicides were committed with an SKS rifle, and police plan to conduct ballistics tests to see whether the weapon in Barbosa's possession was involved, Sheehan said.
Police say Barbosa, 26, is a Vineland Boys member who goes by the name "Buda," an allegation that he denied during Thursday's raid.
But his backyard contained paving bricks that spelled "BUDA," six Buddha statues and a wooden arch with what appeared to be a Buddhist temple.
Barbosa's bedroom held more Buddha statues and four posters from the movie
"Scarface." "Make way for the bad guy," one of them advised. There, police found the rifle, a box of Remington ammunition, $875 in cash, a bag of marijuana and a gun magazine.
"The SKS?" Barbosa said. "That's a hunting gun."
More than a dozen gamecocks were caged in the backyard, and two dogs - a baby pit bull and a three-legged mutt - wandered around. Police notified the county's Animal Services Department of the conditions.
In addition to Barbosa's gun, police recovered methamphetamine, marijuana and stolen merchandise in Thursday's raids. A 9-year-old boy who'd been left alone with two gang members was turned over to the county's Department of Children's Services.
Barbosa was arrested on suspicion of being an ex-convict with a gun; Daniel Pollack, on suspicion of receiving stolen property; Jaime Escobar, Freddy Garcia and Gerrardo Guijon, all for alleged probation violations; Manuel Gomez, on suspicion of being a felon in possession of ammunition; Tony Ross, on suspicion of robbery; and Jorge Gomez, for alleged methamphetamine possession.
Police said they hoped the raids would help reduce violence during the holiday season. They initially dubbed the raid Operation Grinch, but then renamed it Operation Snow Plow.
"These kinds of operations put a crimp in their criminal enterprises. And any time we take a gun off the street, another life is potentially saved," said Capt. Bill Sweet of the North Hollywood Division.
About noon Thursday, a 17-year-old member of the Vineland Boys sat on his living-room couch, hands cuffed behind his back, while police searched his bedroom. While he stared at his Christmas tree, with unopened presents beneath it, he told police he used both methamphetamine and crack.
In his bedroom, police found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia hidden inside his VCR. Police also found several bongs, including one made out of a gas mask and an empty water bottle. Dead cockroaches floated in water at the bottom of another bong.
Several "Scarface" posters with tagging on the back and a pillow covered in graffiti adorned the room.
"It's like his yearbook," Officer Mike Lopez said. "All his buddies sign it when they come over."
This and this don't belong together.
This is just laughable.
This is just total hype bullshit.
Good for the cops putting away a gang banger; -1000 for the idiot journalist calling an SKS an assault rifle.
Yeah it would have been nice if they had said that gun had a 30rnd detachable magazine which made it an assault rifle or something like that, because now everybody is going to think that SKS's are illegal in CA
Like the SF news station who had an article and ran a video clip o TV about the guys in Richmond who shot at the cops with "an SKS, an illegal assault weapon"
The video clearly showed an AK variant.
The editor I emailed about it told me in as many words that I was full of shit and a liar, and that the cops, and ATF called that AK an "SKS"
Thanks, media. So much for reporting integrity.
Oh, wait, it's CA.
Here I thought this was going to be a 4 S story...