RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A massive gang sweep across the Inland Empire netted a total of 17 arrests, and the confiscation of 55 firearms, several pounds of drugs and more than $60,000 in cash.
The operation was called "Walk in the Park" and was the culmination of a multi-agency effort following the investigation into two homicides in 2020.
"We name operations something that's relative to the case itself," said Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez. "Unfortunately, in this case, a person was murdered in a park in our city."
The investigation began on December 22, 2020, after 32-year-old Cedric Dempsey was found shot to death in Bordwell Park in the city of Riverside.
As detectives worked the case, they determined that a vehicle seen in the vicinity of the shooting matched the description of a vehicle seen in the vicinity of a Moreno Valley homicide earlier that year.
In that case, 43-year-old Kevin Henderson was found shot to death in front of his home.
"Just moments prior, he had been holding his 3-day old son," said Chief Deputy Misty Reynolds with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. "He was sitting on the front porch of his home."
Reynolds said Henderson was an innocent victim and was mistakenly targeted by gang members as part of retaliation against a rival gang.
Riverside Police and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department later enlisted the help of the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the California Department of Justice's Special Operations Unit to coordinate their efforts.
More than a year and a half later, on May 6, 2022, investigators arrested 32-year-old Darnell Tate of Moreno Valley for his alleged involvement in the murder of Henderson.
Two weeks later, investigators arrested 50-year-old Arthur Akins of Riverside his alleged involvement in both of the murders.
Then, on May 25, 2022, officials from multiple agencies served 21 search warrants in Riverside, Rialto, Alhambra, San Bernardino Victorville, Bellflower, Moreno Valley, Grand Terrace, Corona, Hesperia, Highland, Fontana and Perris.
Nine more arrests were made, 10 handguns, three rifles and six "ghost guns" were seized, along with a large among of drugs and cash.
"This is not the plot of a Netflix crime show," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. "These are real arrests, these are real seizures, these are real takedowns."
A spokesperson with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said Akins has already been charged with the Dempsey murder.
Sheriff's department officials said charges are still pending for his alleged involvement in the Henderson murder.
The largest weapons seizure of the operation happened in April, when investigators arrested 37-year-old John Wrinkle of Riverside for allegedly operating a milling machine, colloquially known as a 3-D printer, to manufacture ghost guns.
During the search of his property, 11 rifles and shotguns were seized along with 28 handguns. Detectives said they also seized two pounds of fentanyl pills and over 50 pounds of marijuana.
Gonzalez said the number of weapons detectives are coming across in recent years is staggering.
"For us, it was like 250 [guns seized] in 2019, over 600 in 2020, and over 900 last year in 2021," he said. "We'll probably surpass that this year. It almost doubles every year, the amount of guns we're taking off the street."