The Avenal/Pleasant Valley SP Crisis Response Team goes over their action plan during "Operation Red Hand," a multi-agency gang sweep credited with netting 75 arrests.

The Avenal/Pleasant Valley SP Crisis Response Team goes over their action plan during “Operation Red Hand,” a multi-agency gang sweep credited with netting 75 arrests.

Police Chief thanks CDCR staff, other law agencies

By Lt. Mike Tuntakit, AA/Public Information Officer
Avenal State Prison

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff partnered with other law enforcement agencies to help curb violence plaguing Merced County, resulting in 75 arrests following a five-month long probe.

Merced Police Chief Norman Andrade thanks the various agencies and 300 peace officers for their help in the gang sweep.

Merced Police Chief Norman Andrade thanks the various agencies and 300 peace officers for their help in the gang sweep.

Authorities claim local gang members were acting on orders from leaders serving time in state prison, accounting for a massive surge in violence.

“The investigation and subsequent arrests … came in response to increasing violence in Merced County over the last two years, much of which involved local gang members acting at the direction of the Nuestra Familia state prison gang, authorities said in a prepared statement,” the Merced Sun-Star reported.

Avenal State Prison’s Warden Carl Wofford and Pleasant Valley State Prison’s Scott Frauenheim provided mutual aid to the City of Merced in a gang sweep conducted by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigations and the California Highway Patrol Special Operations Unit along with numerous other local law enforcement agencies.

The sweep was the result of a five-month investigation into the heart of the Norteno gangs after a recent double homicide in Winton.

Merced Chief of Police Norman Andrade thanked all the agencies and nearly 300 peace officers involved. The county sheriff and district attorney also praised them for their hard work on the investigation.

“The last two years have been the bloodiest in Merced County’s history, with more than 60 homicides,” District Attorney Larry Morse II told the Sun-Star.

The Crisis Response Team takes part in a gang sweep in Merced County.

The Crisis Response Team takes part in a gang sweep in Merced County.

Assistance from the ASP/PVSP Crisis Response Team was requested to help serve 90 warrants, along with nine other local Police Departments. The effort resulted in 75 arrests, of which 50 Norteno gang members and associates were booked in the Merced County Jail for allegations of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

“We have at least 50 of the baddest guys in our county in jail now,” said Sheriff Vern Warnke.

The sweep targeted the most violent offenders in the state, Chief Andrade said.

Twenty-five of the arrests were “cite and releases” pending further investigation, authorities said.

Dubbed “Operation Red Right Hand,” the sweep also netted the seizure of 5,000 pirated DVDs, $85,000 in cash, 1,500 pseudoephedrine pills, three pounds of cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, one pound of heroin, 50 pounds of marijuana and 11 firearms.

The Incident Commander of the operations sent his gratitude to Warden Wofford and Warden Frauenheim, for allowing the use of their Crisis Response Team.

(Editor’s note: Some websites may not be accessible from a CDCR computer.)

Read more coverage from the Merced Sun-Star, https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/crime/article22510827.html