LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Southern California homes of dozens of white supremacists were raided Tuesday as part of a probe into a string of potentially deadly booby trap attacks targeting police officers, authorities said.
Federal and local officers converged on 35 homes and took 16 people into custody in Riverside County for a variety of crimes, including weapons, narcotics and parole violations, Hemet police Capt. Dave Brown said.
None of the arrests were directly related to the booby trap attacks that have plagued the small Hemet Police Department since New Year’s Eve.
“But we hope some (arrests) will lead us to our suspects,” Brown said.
District Attorney Rod Pacheco said everyone arrested was connected to white supremacist groups.
“They are upset with our aggressive posture against all gangs,” Pacheco said. “White supremacist gangs have been very violent, especially toward law enforcement.”
Hemet police have been targeted at least three times. In one case, a ballistic device strapped to a fence at the gang unit compound sent a bullet within inches of an officer’s face.
In another incident, someone rerouted a natural gas line at the compound, filling the building with flammable vapor. No one was hurt.
Four city trucks were set ablaze, and an explosive device was attached to an unmarked police car after an officer went into a convenience store.
A fire at a police rifle range was being investigated as a possible arson.
Pacheco stressed the investigation was ongoing, and detectives were exploring a variety of theories about who was responsible for the booby traps.
Hemet police officials previously suspected the Vagos motorcycle gang may have been behind the attacks. But a series of arrests did not lead to any charges.
Tuesday’s raids started before dawn and lasted throughout the morning. Most of the homes were in Hemet and the surrounding San Jacinto Valley, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
Historically a rural retirement community, Hemet saw rapid growth during the real estate boom but has since been ravaged by the foreclosure crisis.
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