Operation Guardian gang sweep nets drugs, guns, arrests


Wednesday at 7 a.m., a team of 10 local, state and federal officers pounded on the door of an apartment in El Sereno. They were looking for a known gang member, a convicted felon currently on parole.

After a few tense moments, the door opens, and two men are placed in handcuffs. But the parolee they're seeking is at work, so the team moves on.

About 30 minutes later, after knocks at a door go unanswered, the team breaks down the door of a house just a few miles away. Four residents are detained. Inside the house they find a .25-caliber pistol.

"The parolee will be taken into custody for violation of his conditions of parole, and may be charged as a felon in possession of a firearm at this point," said Joe Martinez, a parole administrator with the Department of Corrections.

Martinez was one of more than 250 parole agents who fanned out across Los Angeles County as part of Operation Guardian, a multi-agency sweep that checked on the homes of 340 parolees.

"Obviously the majority of parolees are not trying to violate the law. But unless we go after those that are violating the law, then we cannot send a clear message that we're on duty all the time, 24-7," said Sheriff Lee Baca at a news conference in El Monte Wednesday afternoon.

The focus of Wednesday morning's unannounced sweep was on parolees with known gang affiliations. At the El Monte news conference, officials announced that 69 parolees were arrested. Five firearms were seized, and officers also confiscated drugs, knives and other weapons.

People who are on parole are still essentially "doing time." They sign away their right to privacy, which means their homes can be searched at any time without a warrant, hence Wednesday morning's crackdown.

"The family members that live there and have the parolees living there do understand that the agents do have access to the residence, and we try to do it in a respectful manner. But for the safety of the staff that are conducting the search, obviously we have to do it quickly, said Robert Ambroselli, director of the California Division of Adult Parole Operations.

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