Gang Task Force Offers Reward for Info about Recent Attacks

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Riverside, California’s Hemet Gang Task Force has offered up a $200,000 reward for information about a series of booby traps intended to kill its police officer members.

The first incident that drew attention was on December 31, 2009, when someone redirected the natural gas line at the task force’s headquarters, filling the office with natural gas. Two task force members entering the office smelled the gas and alerted authorities, so a potentially fatal explosion was averted. The headquarters of the task force was unmarked.

Another booby trap was discovered on February 23, 2010, when a homemade zip gun attached to the task force headquarters security gate fired, missing a police officer’s head by mere inches. That attack prompted the task force to relocate to a different location, and to institute further security measure.

The increased security, however, did not prevent a third attack, which occurred on March 5, 2010. A task force member found a homemade pipe bomb hidden underneath his unmarked police vehicle while it was parked outside of a convenience store.

Authorities feel that the same perpetrator or perpetrators are involved in all three attacks, because of their similar nature and their close timing.

Hemet is one of eight agencies that comprise the Riverside County Gang Task Force, which was formed four years ago. Its aim is to reduce criminal street gang behavior and to outlaw motorcycle gangs in the county. It has been successful in reducing the number of violent crimes, as well as the size of the gangs themselves. The task force has also seen an increase in the number of warrants served and arrests made.

Experts estimate the total gang membership of Riverside County at over 10,000.

Last week, an initiative called “Operation Everywhere” culminated in the arrest of 31 members of the Vagos motorcycle gang. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, John Hall, said that he couldn’t comment on the possibility that the Vagos members were behind the Hemet booby traps, but did say that it was “reasonable to believe that [gang members] are targeting members of the task force specifically.”

Money for the reward was put up by multiple local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“We urge anyone with information on the attacks to come forward immediately,” said California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

 

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