Merced County sheriff's deputies arrested 12 alleged gang members in Planada on Thursday night.
This sweep was in response to a drive-by shooting that happened less than two weeks ago in Planada between rival gang members, said Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.
The Merced County Sheriff's Department, along with the California Parole and Merced County Probation Department, made visits to 50 homes of suspected gang members in Planada and Le Grand. All of the home visits were to people on probation or parole.
As a result, 12 people were arrested on charges that included public intoxication, parole violations, narcotics possession and weapons charges.
Five of the subjects were charged with participating in a criminal street gang and two were registered sex offenders.
The drive-by shooting that sparked the recent crackdown happened on Feb. 9 at 7:45 p.m. in Planada.
Deputy Rosalie Ramos was outside a market in Planada when she heard gunshots and witnessed a blue Lincoln driving at a high rate of speed. The Lincoln was being chased by a black Chevy Impala, according to MacKenzie.
Ramos pursued the vehicles in her patrol car through Planada, but they refused to pull over, MacKenzie said. During the pursuit, the deputy observed the driver of the Impala ram the Lincoln near Live Oak Street and Childs Avenue.
Although the deputy eventually lost track of the pursuit on Childs Avenue, Merced police later found a car matching the description of the blue Lincoln at a South Merced residence on Sonoma Street near Archangel Avenue. Police and deputies went to the home, and several people were detained, although none was arrested.
MacKenzie said a .38 caliber revolver was found in the flower box of the residence.
During the investigation into the chase, investigators determined that the black Impala belonged to 30-year-old Gabriel Saldana. Deputies went to a residence in the 100 block of Arguello Drive in Planada and interviewed Saldana. He admitted to being involved in the chase and ramming the blue Lincoln, MacKenzie said.
Under questioning, Saldana offered no further information. He was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on Feb. 10.
MacKenzie said stray bullets fired between the rival gang members during the car chase struck a home in the 200 block of Adame Court in Merced. No one was hurt.
On Feb. 12 around 6 a.m., the sheriff's SWAT Team served a search warrant at a residence in the 9700 block of Stanford Avenue in Planada.
After deputies arrived, they watched 50-year-old Antonio Resendiz drive away from the home in a 1999 Dodge Ram. Deputies stopped Resendiz's truck and discovered a loaded 9mm handgun inside.
The deputies and SWAT Team served the search warrant at the home, where they arrested Resendiz's 16-year-old son. Detectives believe the teen was the driver of the blue Lincoln involved in the gang-related car chase on Feb. 9, according to Sgt. Jason Goins.
Resendiz was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of having an illegal concealed weapon, while his son was booked into Juvenile Hall on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
"The Merced sheriff's office is going to take a very aggressive, proactive stance against gang activity in the Planada area," MacKenzie said. "We are going to focus a lot of our attention on the east side of our county, especially with the recent methamphetamine lab dumps that have been occurring in that area as well."
Police encourage anyone who has information on gang activity or methamphetamine labs to contact the Merced County Sheriff's Department at (209) 385-7444.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.