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Jul 28, 2006

 By Willie Monroe


July 27  -
Richmond police and federal agents hope they've crippled local factions of a notorious international street gang that stretches from Central America to many parts of the United States.

Dozens of agents with the immigration and customs enforcement, FBI and Richmond police raided several locations early Thursday morning in Richmond. It shocked residents in the normally quiet neighborhood.

Oliver Bradley, neighbor: "There's no crime here & very nice neighborhood. Everyone here leaves their doors unlocked, so it's a real close knit neighborhood, so to see something like that, it's very, very different."

Their targets were more than half a dozen leaders in the notorious international gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, as well as a local street gang called Richmond Sur Tres.

Graffiti illustrates just part of the ongoing rivalry that's erupted in serious violence in the past year.
Lt. Mark Gagan, Richmond police department: "These gangs are primarily Latino street gangs who have been responsible for many of the robberies, carjackings, shootings and even murders here in Richmond and in other parts of the Bay Area."

MS-13 has become a major concern for law enforcement in recent years. Starting as former military in el Salvador, the group has turned into a brutal street gang and spread throughout Texas, the East Coast and California. MS-13 has been responsible for a string of crimes ranging from drug dealing, and gun running, to extortion, rape and murder.

These Salvadoran immigrants are familiar with the name and reputation.

"They never do nothing to me or to my family, but I just hear the news what the people say what they're doing you know."

"Not on this area, but more down on 23rd, everybody knows them. And in San Francisco, that's where they're more known at, not on this area."

Lt. Mark Gagan, Richmond police department: "In this case, we were unaware that these kingpins were living in our city. Their crimes were throughout the Bay Area, and not particularly in Richmond. So it's a benefit for us to have such a good working relationship with the federal agencies."

Thirty-two-year old Jose Santos Bonilla was arrested. Several weapons were seized at his house. He's being held on immigration violations, but could face other charges.

Lt. Mark Gagan, Richmond police department: "His arrest will destabilize that gang. One thing we need to identify is when you arrest gang members you cause instability."

They just want to make sure no one else steps up. A few other people were taken into custody for questioning, but several other suspects remain at large.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Friday July 28, 2006, 6:20 pm
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Kisha F.
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