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Operation “Walk in the Park” results in 17 felony arrests, with two homicides solved, one shooting prevented
RIVERSIDE — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the results of a multiagency effort — operation “Walk in the Park” — targeting a violent street gang in Riverside County. Members of the gang are allegedly responsible for a series of violent crimes, including at least two homicides, and were identified by the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as a significant threat to the community. The agencies then requested the assistance of the California Department of Justice.
“For families, nothing is more important than having the peace of mind to know that the neighborhoods children play in and the community where they live and work is safe,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today’s operation is one step toward healing the Riverside community from the ills of gun violence. While we can never replace the lives taken by this violent gang, we hope that today’s announcement will bring some justice for the families and community left behind. I thank our DOJ agents and law enforcement partners in Riverside for their incredible work in getting these dangerous individuals off our streets. Tonight, Riverside families can sleep safer as a result of this operation.”
“I can’t stress enough the dedication from all the investigators who literally spent thousands of hours on this case,” said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez. “This was truly a collaboration and we could not be more thankful for the professional working relationships we have with all the agencies involved.”
“This two-year-long investigation into a dangerous street gang would not have been successful without the collaborative efforts of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Riverside Police Department, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Justice,” said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. “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.”
“Criminal street gangs continue to be a danger to public safety,” said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. “Not only do they spread violence, but that also are now dealing fentanyl which continues to be an epidemic killing people in our communities.”
The investigation culminated yesterday, when law enforcement agents executed 20 search warrants and four arrest warrants in Riverside County. As part of the operation, the agencies arrested 17 individuals, seized 55 firearms – including six ghost guns and three assault weapons – and confiscated two pounds of fentanyl, two pounds of cocaine, two pounds of heroin, a half-pound of methamphetamine, and 200 MDMA pills, along with $65,952 in cash. Two gang-related homicides in Riverside and Moreno Valley were solved as a result of the joint investigation, including the murder of 32-year-old Cedric Dempsey, a father of nine, who was found deceased in Bordwell Park in Riverside.
Also as part of the operation, agents learned of an alleged conspiracy to commit murder. Agents intercepted a non-serialized pistol they believe was intended to be used in the crime and arrested the alleged manufacturer and distributor of the illegal ghost gun.
Along with those already charged, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office will be reviewing the cases of all those arrested for potential filing in Riverside County Superior Court. The alleged crimes include murder, conspiracy to commit murder, firearms and narcotics trafficking, as well as gang enhancements.
Through collaboration, the DOJ Special Operations Unit provides statewide enforcement for combating violent career criminals, gangs, and organized crime groups, along with intrastate drug traffickers. These unique and essential teams use the latest technology and advanced investigative techniques and work alongside local law enforcement to enhance investigations into violent criminals and organized crime throughout the state.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.
The number one job of the DOJ is to protect the public’s safety. Attorney General Bonta has worked with local, state, and federal partners to: