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Authorities tear down Glassell Park drug house [UPDATED]

February 4, 2009 | 10:21 am

Demolition crews prepare to demolish a former drug house on Drew Street in the Glassell Park area of Los Angeles.

Updated, 12:15 p.m.: Residents and police cheered the demolition of the drug house this morning: "It feels good," said LAPD Det. Steve Aguilar, who patrolled Drew Street for five years before recently becoming a detective. "It's been a long time in the making."

Said resident Eusterbio Renteria, who has lived on Drew Street since 1972: "They should have done this 10 years ago."

As part of a larger effort to crack down on gang activity in the area, Los Angeles city officials demolished a house on Drew Street this morning that police said was for years the center of neighborhood drug activity.

A demolition crew began tearing down the house in the 3000 block of Drew Street about 10 a.m., officials said. It is the latest step by the city and police to crush gang crime in the Glassell Park neighborhood.

Maria "Chata" Leon, an illegal immigrant and former owner of the Drew Street home, was arrested by federal agents in April and charged with illegally reentering the country. The mother of 13 had previously been convicted of felony drug, firearms and child-endangerment charges in three separate cases dating to 1992, according to court records.

During one raid at her house in 2002, police arrested Leon and found cocaine, marijuana, a Tec-9 assault weapon, ammunition, a small explosive and a cellphone that was still ringing with customers' orders, according to court records. Also in the house were six children younger than 10, including Leon's youngest child, a 3-month-old boy.

Gang crime has been pervasive throughout the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood where the home is located.

Last June, hundreds of heavily armed police and federal agents stormed into the neighborhood and arrested 28 people in an attempt to root out the Avenues gang members who have ruled the area with violence and near impunity. A sweeping indictment named 70 defendants –- mostly connected to the Drew Street clique of the larger Avenues gang.

The gang had stirred a storm of media coverage and police attention after a wild shootout in February of last year. Avenues gang members shot to death a rival member of the Cypress Park gang. The killing was followed up a few minutes later by a shootout between police and the Avenues gang members in Glassell Park, leaving one gang member dead.

-- Sam Quinones

Photo: Demolition crews prepare to demolish a former drug house on Drew Street in the Glassell Park area of Los Angeles.

Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times