Three federal immigration agents were shot and injured Thursday during a massive Bay Area gang sweep stemming from an investigation into a widely publicized 2010 triple homicide in South San Francisco.
One member of the 500 Block and C Street gangs — two separate gangs that work together — was successfully taken into custody after trying to escape while shooting at the agents, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.
Later Thursday, Haag, along with state and local officials in South San Francisco, announced the arrests of 13 alleged members of violent street gangs who were taken into custody in a multiagency operation at 11 locations.
Gunfire erupted in Petaluma as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents descended upon a home near McNeil Avenue and South McDowell Boulevard about 4:30 a.m., authorities reported. The agents suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.
Agents were hunting for suspects and accomplices connected to the Dec. 22, 2010, shooting deaths of three rival gang members — Omar Cortez, 18; Gonzalo Avalos, 19; and Hector Flores, 20 — near Eighth Lane and Linden Avenue in South City.
A total of 19 members of the Norteño-affiliated 500 Block and C Street gangs were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on April 24.
Four men — Joseph Ortiz, 22, of South San Francisco; Victor Flores, 20, of Petaluma; Justin Whipple, 19, of San Bruno; and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 21, of San Mateo — are suspected in the South City fatal shootings.
The killings outraged South City leaders and the community, and neighbors were asked to help squash escalating gang violence.
Thursday’s raids followed an 18-month probe into the homicides, authorities said, which revealed a wider net of gangs, guns and drugs.
Sixteen of the 19 defendants named in the indictment have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and other charges.
Fifteen suspects are currently in federal custody and are scheduled to make their initial appearances in San Francisco today before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Spero.
Bay City News contributed to this report.