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Major police raid targets L.A.'s notorious Avenues gang


Hundreds of police officers and federal law enforcement agents launched a major assault on the Avenues gang this morning, hoping to deal a blow to an elusive group they say is responsible for some of Los Angeles' most notorious street crime.

Under the cover of darkness around 3 a.m., roughly 1,200 heavily armed officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and several other agencies dispersed from a command post near the LAPD’s training academy in Elysian Park.

Warrants in hand, they descended on dozens of homes in search of 53 alleged members or associates of the Avenues gang wanted on an array of federal charges related to extensive drug dealing, unsolved murders and other crimes.

Forty-three suspects already are in custody on unrelated charges. The operation was aimed to bring new charges against 88 Avenues members or associates, a significant share of a gang that is believed to have about 400 members. 

Some suspects were sought elsewhere in the city, but the sweep focused on Glassell Park and other neighborhoods in the northeastern reaches of Los Angeles -- the center of Avenues territory since the gang first surfaced in the 1950s.

There were no reports of officers encountering armed resistance. San Bernardino sheriff's officers say they shot two aggressive dogs they encountered at one location.

It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects had been found at their homes and taken into custody. The names of the suspects and the crimes they were accused of also were not immediately known, pending the unsealing of the indictments.

The arrests culminated a yearlong investigation of the gang run by a unit of LAPD detectives that specializes in gang-related homicides and a DEA task force.

The Avenues came under scrutiny in the wake of the August 2008 slaying of Juan Abel Escalante, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. Escalante, 27, was gunned down outside of his parents’ Cypress Park home early in the morning as he headed to work as a guard at the Men’s Central Jail.

LAPD detectives led the murder investigation into the killing because it occurred within city boundaries. Within days of the shooting, agents from the DEA task force, which had previously investigated the Avenues, came to the LAPD with information they had gathered that indicated members from the gang may have been responsible.

That tip led to the arrest in December of two Avenues members in connection with the murder. Months later, a third member was taken into custody, and charges were brought against a fourth, who remains a fugitive. In the course of investigating the Escalante killing, however, the LAPD detectives and DEA agents delved into the inner workings of the Avenues and began compiling evidence related to a host of other alleged crimes.

Some of the information was collected during interrogations of Avenues members and others from the neighborhood who had been arrested by a special team of 54 uniformed gang officers deployed in the area. Much of the incriminating information, however, came from the suspects themselves as DEA agents secured approval from federal judges for an array of wire taps that allowed them to listen in on gang members’ phone conversations.

"They could have just stuck with Escalante," said LAPD Capt. Kevin McClure, who oversees the detective unit. “They could have said, ‘We got what we came for,’ packed it up and moved on to something that would have been easier. This operation was not a result of me telling them they have to do this. It is a result of this unit saying, ‘There is more here, let’s keep going.’ ”

Over the course of the investigation, cases were built against Avenues members for their alleged roles in six other unsolved murders and four attempted murders, said a top LAPD gang detective involved in the operation. He requested that his name not be used because of concerns over retaliation by Avenues members.

The bulk of the charges are for extortion and other crimes that Avenues members and associates allegedly committed as part of the gang’s extensive drug trafficking in the area, police say. Most of the Avenues members included in the indictment are being charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which allows prosecutors to pursue more serious prison sentences. At a planning briefing last week with representatives from the agencies involved, there was little question as to what had kept the group motivated.

With the auditorium at LAPD headquarters filled with a few hundred officers, a recording was played of the phone call Escalante’s wife made to a 911 dispatcher after discovering him in the street. “If anyone has any doubt about the rationale or reason behind this operation, it was this,” a detective said.

At the meeting, officers reviewed the complicated logistics involved in a gang sweep of such a large magnitude. With more than a dozen targets located on one street alone, the routes each team of officers would take and the order of their deployment had to be painstakingly planned.

Officers were instructed to bring suspects back to the command post for processing wearing only clothes and a pair of shoes. Any jewelry, cellphones or other belongings would clog up what promised to be an already hectic assembly line of alleged criminals.  Staff from the state’s Child Protective Services department would be on hand to handle children found in any of the homes, officers were told.

The gang, named for the avenues that cross Figueroa Street,  has a long, ugly history dating back at least to the 1950s, when it was linked to many shootouts and killings. It is thought by some that the group’s origins can be traced back to some of the hundreds of families displaced from Chavez Ravine, now home to Dodger Stadium, and the Rose Hill areas.

The group’s insignia, which many members have tattooed on their bodies, is a skull with a bullet hole, wearing a fedora. Various cliques of the Avenues claim Highland Park and parts of Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock as their territory. It is linked closely to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, which demands that the Avenues and other Eastside gangs send up a share of the taxes they collect from low-level drug dealers and others selling goods on their turf.

Today’s sweep is hardly the first time law enforcement has taken on the Avenues. In 2002, the city attorney won an injunction against the gang, making it illegal for members to congregate throughout much of Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park and Eagle Rock. A few years later, federal prosecutors won hate-crime convictions against Avenues members for the killings of three black men between 1995 and 2000.

Government attorneys argued that the Avenues launched a campaign of violence to force black people out of the Highland Park area in the 1990s and targeted the men simply because of their race. In 2007, the city used a narcotics-abatement lawsuit to shut down the home of a family at the center of the Avenues' Drew Street clique.

At the time, then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo called the house the gang’s “mother ship.” In February of last year, the gang re-erupted into the city’s public consciousness when policy say Drew Street members  gunned down a man as he stood on a curb holding his 2-year-old granddaughter’s hand.

They brazenly took on police in a running gun battle, firing at officers with an AK-47 assault rifle in broad daylight. Most recently, in June 2008, the DEA task force that came to LAPD detectives with information on the Escalante killing conducted a similar, but smaller, operation to the one carried out today. That investigation named 70 defendants.

At the time, LAPD officials assured residents of the area that they would work to keep the gang from reclaiming control of the neighborhoods. Drug activity in the area has slowed considerably in recent months, the detective said, but considering the size of today’s operation, the gang clearly has maintained a commanding presence in the area.

"They’ve owned that community for a long, long time," the detective said. "Only time will tell for sure, but I think this will be a blow that will finally make a lasting impact."

-- Joel Rubin

Photo: Several men suspected of being members or associates of the Avenues gang are held in a booking area after being arrested during a predawn raid. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (204)

Gangs are nothing more than for-profit companies that satisfy consumer demand for illegal goods and services such as drugs (including alcohol during prohibition), prostitution, etc.

The police are not heroes at all; they're just enforcing corrupt laws by choice (they have a choice to become police officers).

Make cigarettes illegal and the cashier working at Wal-Mart is now a 'drug dealer'. Marlboro is now a 'drug grower'. Truckers are now 'drug mules'. Smokers are 'drug users'. All of them together form a 'gang'.

Would police be heroes if they arrested the cashier, CEO, and smoker because some ink on a piece of paper deemed it illegal? Of course not; they're just destroying private property rights and arresting people for exercising their right to freedom of choice.

In this sense, the police are just gangsters themselves. The gangster gangsters are working for the people that pay for their services. The police gangsters are working for the people that pay legislators to make gang products and services illegal. Examples are tobacco companies, big pharma, etc. that fund lobby efforts to keep marijuana illegal.

So, gangs are essentially armed thugs for the people and police, in this scenario (obviously police do carry out good activities but this isn't one of them), are just armed thugs for special interest groups with lots of money to pay lobbyists.

Once you realize that gangs are just there to satisfy consumer demand for illegal goods and services the same way Microsoft is there to satisfy consumer demand for operating systems (and would have to arm itself to deliver Windows to consumers if it were illegal the same way gangs have to), it's immediately absurd to think you can eliminate gang activity by fighting gangs themselves. Eliminate the supply to a demand and another entrepreneur (gang leader/ business owner) will immediately take the former entrepreneur's place just the same as Linux, for example, might overtake Windows if the police shut down Microsoft.

Getting rid of Microsoft won't get rid of operating systems and getting rid of 'Avenues' won't get rid of gangs.

In a sense, gangs are even justified for taking up arms; all they're really doing is defending their private property (drugs and whatever other illegal goods they're selling) rights. If the police didn't bother them when they sell their drugs like they don't bother Microsoft when it sells operating systems, they wouldn't take up arms to defend themselves. Indeed, they'd then, like Microsoft, just be legitimate private (or public) companies providing goods and services, not 'gangs'.

Thus, the only way to get rid of gang activity, both actual gang activity and gang-equivalent police activity, is to give freedom a chance. Legalize drugs, prostitution, etc. and the 'Avenues', 'Bloods', 'Crypts', etc. will become legitimate private companies overnight. No one will get hurt, no will get shot, and everyone benefits; the police because they're not getting shot at, the gangsters because they can now operate their businesses without fear of getting arrested (though they will make less profit), the taxpayer because the cost of legalizing everything is literally free, the citizen due to increased safety, the drug user due to drug dosages being standardized and unlaced and sold through legitimate companies at drastically lower prices (imagine if alcohol didn't have the proof printed on it - there would be a lot more overdoses, oh and you have to buy it from a shady dude with a gun that might put crack in it if he feels like it instead of at 7-11), the prostitute because she doesn't have to deal with dangerous pimps, the prostitute solicitor because he doesn't have to deal with gangs, etc.

Still not following?

Al Capone -> Budweiser, Coors, etc.
Avenues, Bloods, Crypts, etc. -> New huge, legitimate American corporations and Coca-cola can remake their original product =D

Arrest Budweiser employees -> Al Capone
Arrest new, huge American corporation's employees -> Avenues, Bloods, Crypts, etc.

We've been fighting gangs for decades and it hasn't worked. To think that you can keep doing the same thing and expect something different is, according to Einstein, insane. So, put some sanity into your thought process and nip this problem at the bud: illegal (unconstitutional), immoral, and unjust laws.

When the gang details start getting tough on these gangs they catch nothing but grief from the public being politically correct. When a gang shooting kills a neighborhood kid the same people raise heck and say the police aren't doing their job.
They can't win for losing. There are area's the police are afraid to go in.
It's time for the police to get tough more often like they used to and take the neighborhoods back.
The federal Government needs to allow all police to deal with illegal aliens. Congress needs to pass laws that allow all police to do their jobs without fear of stupid consequences.
If it could be like it was in the 40s and 50s, if any of these low life's even blinked they would go to jail and deported immediately.
I'm glad to see this happen but after our gang details gather enough info it's time to attack the gangs again.
I feel sorry for poor people that have to live in these areas so them and their children have to live in fear.
Local government creates most of these problems by allowing to many people to live in the same area under the stupid excuse of affordable housing.
Tear down these housing projects and allow neighborhoods to revert to a normal neighborhood.
Long Beach started this affordable housing stuff and it ruined most of the areas that used to be safe places to live.
They would take a normal residential neighborhood and drop in a 50 unit apartment building and all the people would move and it would soon be a crime area.
These problems are created by local governments and political correctness.
If this continues it will be hard to find a safe place to live and the police will be out numbered and unable to keep us safe if it isn't to late already.
I thank these brave police for doing this but it needs to happen weekly.
Our liberal Judges keep letting these predators right back on the street to prey on the week. Thank God for 3 strikes.

"I don't live in Los Angeles anymore but from what I remember, LAPD was the largest gang in Los Angeles.LAPD might have won this one battle but the AVENUES will win the war. Los Angeles belongs to the Chicanos. Viva La Raza. Y que?"

Hey Anthony! Let me know when the REAL war begins!! You know, the one with a ARMED populace coming and LOOKING FOR YOUR STUPID A$$!

Very good news, the more low life thugs they can get off the streets the better.

Want to stop gangs? Stop trying to 'work with them' and declare open season on these punks. Put a bounty out on them and they will hopefully become an endangered species. I am sick of the excuses (they lack a family so they join a gang), so give the 'mis-guided youth' a clear choice: Stay out of the gangs or you will either end up dead or in prison. As for the illegals in the gangs, according to the liberals, the illegals are here to do jobs Americans won't do - does that include terrorize our citizens, sell drugs, and corrupt our young people? Just one more reason to close the border.

It's about time!!!

I think they ought to raid many gangs, put them all together far away, in a close in area and give them knives and guns. And tell them to have it...this way there will be some that will never hit the streets again.

Don't stop! Get all gang members out of L.A. Please



Glenda London:
Single mother of 7 says it all

1200 heavily armed cops take 58 gang members? it now takes 20 cops to arrest one person?? no wonder california is broke...........

What we need is a spec-ops unit of former or current Operators who have a special mandate to kill any and all suspected gang members and affiliates in the country. The problem doesn't go away when you put these people in prison, they operate just as well behind bars. La Eme has done as much damage from behind bars as anywhere else.

These people must be eradicated. Deport them? That's a joke. They'll be back in the country in a month. Imprison them? They don't care. They make just as much money and cause just as much death from behind bars.

If their bodies begin piling up by the hundreds, and then the thousands, killed by professional soldiers with a government mandate... then something would change. Being as the cowards of this country don't have the stomach to do what is necessary, you will all continue to be victims of these monsters.

Keep it up LAPD. Get them all!!!

Good stuff ! I live in Toronto , Canada, where gangs also exist. Unfortunately, our Mayor Miller and the justice system is not cracking down these vandals. Gang - members who live in taxpayers subsidized buildings ( called THC) are allowed to stay. Just as their supporters . Illegal weapons are everywhere in Toronto. Almost weekly some media shows shootings and criminal activities in front of or around those buildings. Residents are fed up of course , children are killing children, desperate mothers are trying to find those responsible. Maybe the gutsy LA cops come over, and clean up our city for good.

Congratulations to the LAPD. This was clearly a very successful investigation, and hopefully these criminals will be sentenced to life in jail.

I love the part where our freedom was taken away. tapping phone lines, invading homes, killing innocent animals who are there to protect the home.. all so another GANG can have leverage. You people who are congratulating the L.A.P.D. make me sick. you have no control over your own life so you want the government to protect you. everyone needs to open their eyes and see this for what it is. Police are out of hand. just Google police raids/swat and you'll see what I'm talking about... This sounds like protection until it happens to your family, it's not so pretty when YOUR rights are taken away. I hope they get bigger and stronger and retaliate against these police. I know where I stand on this issue and it's not for the Law.

i went to irving jr. high & hung out at glassell all through the late 70's & early 80's..
stuff was crazy back then.. all the AVE's used be hanging out at the park..
it was an old gang back then and that was 30 years ago...we still talking about it now..
its stuck in there for good.. can't point any fingers...

Mandatory lifetime solitary confinement for gang members. Why should our taxes pay to enable gang networks once they're in prison or to educate each other for the next time they're on the street!

This warrant is effective due to the impact that it will have on the community. This sends a message that, no more state jails where you get out early due to overpopulated prisons, communicating with your homeboy and still controlling the streets from prison. 47 suspects were arrested on september 22nd, an additional 35 or so suspects were already in prison and indicted on the 22nd. These individuals are looking at a minimum of 10 years in prison in a federal prison, distributed through out the united states. The state has been too easy on these gangs for so long and have become tolerant of this behavior. Thanks to the feds for finally stepping up and assisting local law enforcement to deal with this problem.

IT DID NOT TAKE THE DEATH OF AN OFFICER FOR THIS TO HAPPEN! Why do so many people keep saying that? The 9/11 call was played almost to "fire up" the squad before the operation took place. That's because it added emotional depth to what they were about to embark upon. It's the same reason that characters in movies have a lot of the same traits; people identify with them. The officers identified with one of their own.

Many other officers have died because of this gang. So have many other civilians. The point is, as the article states, that this had to be planned with every meticulous precaution possible; and had been building for years! It wasn't like an officer died and then over night a big bust happens. The LAPD wasn't just sitting around eating cakes and having sodas as if everything was blissful and happy until something finally affected them.

Please cease and desist criminal activity.

Wow! This probably explains why there was about 50 police officers around my apartment at around 5 o'clock in the morning. There was also like 10 police cars stacked in the middle of the street. I was kind of scared for the moment.

i have never heard of that gang ...........

"Simple solution, Bulls to Steers.
I'm a 65 year old Oregonian who in my youth spent several years working on a large cattle ranch.
Every year we would round-up the yearling bulls and castrate them, a process referred to as nutting.

There are two reasons for this practice;
(1) a steer yields more and better meat.
(2) more importantly a steer is far less aggressive or even docile.

This procedure is common by all cattle ranches worldwide, as it would be imposable to manage multiple un-castrated bulls due to the aggressive nature of the animal, the bull thereafter is referred to as a steer.

If this practice could be applied to habitual violent offenders the results would be;
(1) Greater deterrent to violent crime for fear of punishment.
(2) Lower jail and prison population.
(3) Fewer unwed mothers (less welfare)

Posted by: Old Rancher | September 23, 2009 at 07:14 AM "


I completely agree with Old Rancher... That will make a huge impact on the gang/crime problem. If you castrate them, then they won't be able to have kids that will grow up to be just like their parents... a bunch of low-lifes.

If we can't stop them (through the death penalty), then at least we can stop future generations of them.

It is sad that city of Los Angeles is the victim of gang violence. However, the city has a large influx of illegel immigration. MS-13 is made up illegal immigrants the more federal, state, and local governments give more initivites to stay here and doesn't let the Immigration and Customs do thier job California the worse it is going to be. I am sorry L.A Times won't put that in thier paper.
The majority of them are smuggled here and come over with out thier parents. This makes them prone to join gangs like MS-13 Mexican Mafia gangs in Los Angeles. The raid that has been done to the Park area is not enough and needs to be done every year. What happens when they assist or cartels assist major terrorist network? What will happen to L.A then? The Liberal Ideology of L.A is what is destroying it. How long and How many more cops and innocent civilians have to die before U.S Government and state, local officials take this as serious problem.

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