It was the final week of April. An indictment was handed down against 19 violent street gang members who were allegedly tied to multiple murders, robberies and drug trafficking in northern California. During the early morning hours of May 3, special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), including those assigned to Special Response Teams, embarked on Operation Red Tidings – an enforcement operation aimed at arresting the 13 at-large individuals named in that indictment. Six individuals were already in law enforcement custody.
That morning, HSI Los Angeles' Special Response Team members were met with a barrage of gunfire, and three team members were injured. One received a gunshot wound to the leg; another received a gunshot wound to his shoulder. The third special agent received a gunshot wound to the foot. They are expected to make a full recovery.
"My office is proud to be associated with professionals who put their lives on the line to protect others and are serious about keeping the community safe. We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to help bring to justice those who terrorize their communities with violence and fear," said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
Haag is not alone in her sentiments. The mayor, city manager and police chief from the California city of South San Francisco traveled to Los Angeles recently to personally thank the HSI special agents for their courage and sacrifice and present them with a proclamation. Several ICE and HSI officials also attended the ceremony.
Special Response Teams consist of HSI special agents and are often called upon to serve high-risk warrants. Before becoming a team member, special agents must complete a rigorous training where they run 1.5 miles in less than 12 minutes, drag a dummy for 25 yards, do 30 pushups, transition over a six-foot wall in full tactical gear and participate in force-on-force scenarios. Trainees are also required to meet certain shooting requirements and complete classroom lessons in various tactical disciplines, including intelligence gathering, use of force and officer mindset.
May 3 was "a welcome day for residents of South San Francisco and a very bad day for an entrenched gang based in the Bay Area," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "This indictment and the related arrests serve as a warning to local gangs about the consequences of using violence and fear to maintain control of their turf."
Learn how ICE combats transnational gangs.