ANAHEIM, Calif. – The man whose shooting death sparked widespread protests in Anaheim, California and drew national attention to the issue of excessive force by the police was one of those sought in a crackdown on a violent gang that resulted in dozens of arrests on Friday, police said.
Manuel Díaz was a confirmed member of the East Side Anaheim gang, which was targeted in a series of raids that ended with 33 arrests, Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn said.
Another 20 to 25 suspects already were in custody, he said.
Díaz's photograph was among those of suspects that were provided at a news conference.
"He would have been arrested today," Dunn said.
Some 100 federal, state and local agents raided 54 locations in Anaheim and in Los Angeles County.
Some of the raids concentrated on a poor, mainly Latino neighborhood known as Anna Drive where there has been a recent rise in gang activity and where the unarmed Díaz was killed on July 21.
The next night, police shot and killed suspected gang member Joel Acevedo after he reportedly shot at an officer.
The killings prompted four days of violent demonstrations and a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit by Díaz's family.
I just think this community is being targeted by the police because we're speaking out.
- Ricardo Hurtado
The raids were not connected to the shootings but protests delayed them, Police Chief John Welter said.
"We didn't want to be seen as coming in now and arresting a bunch of community members and having people misunderstand or again spread rumors and false information about what we were doing," he said.
"We need to regain some of the trust that has been lost as a result of some of these actions in the street by protesters," Welter said.
After the raids, police distributed fliers in English and Spanish that explained the yearlong investigation, which was dubbed Operation Halo because the city is home to the Angels baseball team.
Some residents shook officers' hands, Welter said.
But others on Anna Drive told the Orange County Register that they felt the sweep was a retaliation against angry residents.
"I just think this community is being targeted by the police because we're speaking out," said Ricardo Hurtado, 21.
"This is all a cover-up," he said. "It's all show. They never expected this community to blow up like this."
The gang is suspected of drug dealing and murder and those facing federal or state drug and weapons charges could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of weapons charges and up to 40 years for drug charges, authorities said.
Televised reports showed a line of men, some shirtless, sitting on the curb with their hands bound behind their backs.
During the yearlong investigation, authorities seized 11 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 40 guns, including assault-style rifles, sawed-off shotguns and a pistol believed used in a killing, authorities said.
The investigation was prompted by the 2011 stabbing death of a 12-year-old member of a graffiti tagging crew that is considered a "feeder" for the street gang, Dunn said.
Prosecutors say Juan Martinez was walking home from school when he was stabbed during a fight with a member of a rival tagging crew. Bryan Ocampo is charged with murder.
Violent crime in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, jumped 10 percent last year and the number of murders nearly doubled, according to FBI crime statistics.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.