Authorities in Rhode Island on Wednesday arrested 50 people associated with two rival motorcycle clubs believed to be involved in a turf war and seized 53 illegal guns, including a rocket launcher, and a large amount of marijuana, crack, cocaine and heroin.
State Police identified the two gangs as the Pagans and Kryptmen, who were dubbed “some of the most violent” gangs in the country, the Providence Journal reported. The gangs allegedly have a history of gun and drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder and robbery.
"These gang members are not recreational bikers organizing local charities,” Col. Ann Assumpico said. “These are violent criminals who belong to some of the most sinister motorcycle gangs in this country.”
Authorities arrested the members in a coordinated series of pre-dawn raids involving more than 150 state, federal and local law enforcement officers, used explosive devices to access fortified buildings, and an armored truck and battering ram to break down doors, the paper reported.
"These gang members are not recreational bikers organizing local charities. These are violent criminals who belong to some of the most sinister motorcycle gangs in this country.”
The yearlong investigation, called Operation Patch Out, began last May when authorities learned the gangs were trying to establish local chapters and gain territory in the state, police said.
"When I learned they were trying to establish a foothold here in Rhode Island, I ordered my detectives to use whatever means necessary to investigate and eradicate these gangs," Assumpico said.
Investigators intercepted thousands of phone conversations and text messages using electronic surveillance and court-ordered wiretaps, the paper reported. A 1,300-page affidavit detailed other evidence used to secure warrants for nearly 30 different searches.
The early morning raids didn’t come as a surprise to some people in the communities.
"I kind of expected it on this street," John Patenaude of Woonsocket told WPRI-TV. "This street's hot."
Patenaude told the station he heard “screaming” and saw “people on the ground” as he stood on his porch watching police raid a neighboring house.
According to Assumpico, the operation was believed to be the “single largest take-down” in State Police history. At least a dozen additional suspects were still wanted by police.
"Today's arrests send a clear and convincing message: We will not allow motorcycle gangs and other criminals to sell guns and drugs on our streets and commit violent crimes in our communities,” Assumpico said.