A crackdown on gang crime in the Inland Empire netted 17 arrests — including two for murder — the confiscation of more than 50 guns and the seizure of large quantities of marijuana, fentanyl and other narcotics , authorities announced Thursday.
“These kinds of operations are critical to keeping our community safe,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said during a news briefing at the Riverside Police Department’s Magnolia Station. “You look at the guns that have been seized. They were in the hands of criminals, gang members. You know what our police officers and people in our community face on the streets.”
Hestrin joined Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and others in highlighting results of “Operation Walk in the Park,” which began in March and wrapped up Wednesday, involving numerous agencies serving search and arrest warrants in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“This is about combating violence and organized crime groups,” Bonta said. “These are real arrests, real seizures. We will keep at it. There’s more work to do.”
The street gang targeted in the operation was not specified.
According to Gonzalez, a total of 55 firearms were seized during the sweeps, which also netted two pounds of the highly toxic synthetic opioid fentanyl, over 50 pounds of marijuana, two pounds of heroin, a half-pound of crack cocaine, 200 ecstasy pills and assorted other drugs.
“We received information about a suspect manufacturing and selling guns to gang members,” the police chief said.
He said that a search warrant served at the man’s property led to the seizure of three so-called “ghost guns” that can be designed using a 3-D printer, which was also seized at the location.
According to the police chief, several gang members attempted to flee when they were confronted by officers, but they were apprehended without injuries to law enforcement personnel or the suspects.
In addition to Riverside, warrants were served in Adellanto, Corona, Hesperia, Moreno Valley, Rialto and San Bernardino, Gonzalez said.
The two higher profile arrests involved 50-year-old Arthur Lawrence Akins of Riverside and 32-year-old Darnell Frederick Tate of Moreno Valley, both of whom are charged with first-degree murder and special-circumstance allegations of killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Akins is accused of gunning down 32-year-old Cedric Omar Dempsey of Riverside in Bordwell Park on the morning of Dec. 22, 2020. Hestrin said it was a gang-related hit, but no other information was disclosed. The defendant, who is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail, made his initial court appearance Wednesday and is slated to be arraigned Friday at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Tate is accused of fatally shooting 43-year-old Kevin Henderson of Moreno Valley on the evening of June 7, 2020.
A Riverside County sheriff’s spokeswoman said that the victim was “wrongfully targeted” as he sat on his front porch in the 24000 block of Myers Avenue, after just holding his infant son.
The intended target of the alleged gang hit was not disclosed.
Tate, who is being held without bail at the downtown Riverside jail, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Tuesday and is slated to make his next court appearance on Aug. 2.
“The impact gang violence has on innocent victims has no place in any community, and we will continue to relentlessly pursue gangs with the strongest possible response by law enforcement,” Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a statement released immediately after the joint briefing.
Along with Riverside police and county sheriff’s deputies, personnel from the Corona Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Justice’s Special Operations Unit participated in the takedown operations.
Officials said additional operations are already in the works at other locations throughout the state.