Hemet City Council approves measure to "harden" buildings after attacks against police
The Hemet City Council approved an emergency measure Tuesday to fortify city buildings in response to a series of attacks against police officers in recent weeks.
The resolution allows the city to begin awarding no-bid contracts to "harden" areas at City Hall and the Police Department headquarters.
City Manager Brian Nakamura said the city received a $150,000 grant from the state and another $15,000 from Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone to fund the construction and installation of surveillance equipment.
"What we're going to try to do is create a safe buffer," Nakamura said in an interview, adding that counters in public areas may be heightened and plexiglass shields may be installed.
The council resolution cited law enforcement intelligence indicating that city buildings are the likely targets of future attacks.
"Intelligence reports indicate that the police facility is the likely focus of future criminal acts," Capt. Dave Brown wrote in a memo to council members. "Immediate action is required to harden these facilities."
No specific suspects have been named, and authorities have not said whether they believe the attacks have been carried out by a single person or group.
Last month, authorities led raids on the Vagos motorcycle gang, which was described as an "extreme threat" to law enforcement. In all, 33 members were arrested in Riverside County and 36 others were taken into custody in Arizona, Nevada and Utah as part of the operation, authorities said. Charges included possession of drugs and weapons.
In recent months, the attacks have involved booby traps set at the headquarters of the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force, officials said. In December, a gas utility line was redirected to fill the offices with gas. Officials said a spark could have triggered a devastating explosion.
In February, a "zip gun" was hidden by the gate to the task force office and rigged to fire. When a gang officer opened the gate, the weapon went off, the bullet narrowly missing him, authorities said.
In early March, police said, a "dangerous" device was found near the unmarked car of a task force member. That was followed by an arson attack on several city trucks March 23.
Now authorities are investigating whether an early-morning fire Monday at a Hemet police shooting range was another attack on the department. The fire at the remote training facility off Warren Road broke out shortly after 2 a.m. Much of the building was destroyed in the blaze.
Authorities are offering a $200,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for the attacks. Anyone with information is asked to call (951) 765-3897.
-- Robert J. Lopez