More than a dozen members of a Riverside street gang — including the “majority of major players” who run the gang — were arrested in a citywide sweep stemming from a months-long murder investigation, authorities announced Friday.
“We hope this will help our citizens see the Riverside Police Department as a force for good,” interim police Chief Larry Gonzalez said about the Casa Blanca Gangsta Crips takedown, dubbed “Operation Blocc Buster.” “We are constantly working to make our community a better, safer place.”
Riverside police Lt. Charles Payne said during the news briefing at the Magnolia station that California Department of Justice investigators, California Highway Patrol officers and prosecutors with the Riverside County District. Attorney’s Office have been working with RPD for a year to solve three major crimes, including the slaying of 37-year-old William Calderon on Sept. 1.
Payne said that the handyman had just finished working on his van and was test-driving it to ensure the repairs were adequate when he was shot to death in the vehicle.
“We recovered video depicting the shooting,” Payne said. “There were gang members coaching the shooter, who was told to target the next vehicle going down the street. It could have been anyone.”
Charged with murder and special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait for the deadly shooting are 25-year-old Ruben Kelly, 59-year-old Edward Russell Smith, 25-year-old Jeffrey Edward Taylor and 29-year-old Russell Alvon Wilkerson. Smith was arrested in Oklahoma and returned to Riverside County, according to Payne.
They made a joint initial court appearance Friday and were all ordered held without bail at county detention facilities.
Another 13 gang members were arrested for a variety of alleged offenses, including attempted murder, conspiracy, possession of illegal drugs for sale and possession of prohibited firearms.
During Thursday’s sweep, investigators seized four rifles — among which were two assault weapons — and 10 handguns, according to Payne.
He said that along with the Calderon killing, investigators arrested gang members allegedly involved in a Jan. 26 shooting at a residence where the defendants were partying. Detectives allege that when a woman shouted at them to quiet down, they shot her multiple times. She survived.
The defendants are also accused in the fatal beating of a gang member last Feb. 8.
“We took down the majority of the major players, people telling other people what to do,” Detective Bryon Adcox said. “This is going to be a pretty big hit against the gang.”
Ed Medrano with the Department of Justice said authorities had “accomplished our goal for this operation.”
“This is what law enforcement can do when we partner together,” he said. “The people of Riverside can rest a little easier, knowing neighborhoods are a little safer now. The goal is to stop those who terrorize and harass our communities.”
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