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In wake of attacks on police, Hemet considers 'hardening' city properties

April 13, 2010 |  7:55 am

Hemet city officials on Tuesday will consider emergency measure designed to help officials deal with a series of attacks targeting police officers.

The City Council will vote on measures designed to speed up a campaign to "harden" city properties, making them less vulnerable to attack. If the measure is approved, city officials could immediately begin awarding non-bid contracts to fortify areas such as public lobbies in city buildings.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01310fd75877970c-800wi A council resolution cites law enforcement intelligence indicating that city buildings are the likely targets of attacks. A primary target is the Police Department headquarters, according to city documents.

"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, but last month authorities led raids on the Vagos motorcycle gang, which was described as an "extreme threat" to law enforcement. The group has a large  presence in Hemet. Thirty people were arrested on charges that included possession of drugs and weapons.

In recent months, the attacks have involved booby traps set at the headquarters of the Hemet-San Jacinto 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 modified handgun 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, narrowly missing him.

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 on 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.

"In light [of] the incidents involving our department over the past three months, we are investigating the possibility that this is related, but we will not speculate at this point until the investigators are able to complete their work," Brown said.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Investigators at the scene where several Hemet city trucks were set ablaze last month. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times