Nick Ut  /  AP
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officer assists an innocent resident, Merlene Viola Blahak, after tear gas was thrown into her apartment building during a drug raid in South Los Angeles Thursday.
updated 4/12/2007 3:49:01 PM ET 2007-04-12T19:49:01

A two-year probe of a violent South Los Angeles street gang culminated Thursday with 22 arrests and seizures of drugs and guns in a series of raids over five hours that led to a neighborhood evacuation until tear gas drove a suspect out of a home.

Those arrested were reputed members and associates of the Neighborhood Crips, authorities said.

"They are a very violent street gang," said Susan Raichel of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "They have been involved in numerous murders, numerous drive-by shootings."

"Here you have armed drug dealers," she said. "They're just intimidating the neighborhood to maintain control of their turf."

About 500 federal, state and local law enforcement agents served search and arrest warrants, mostly in South Los Angeles. Two were served in San Bernardino and Covina, authorities said.

Tear gas in one case
The arrests were mainly peaceful, although one man sought for federal firearms violations refused to come out of his South Los Angeles house when authorities came to arrest him around 4:30 a.m., Raichel said.

Residents, some in their pajamas, were evacuated from a one-block area in buses and a SWAT team was called in, she said.

The standoff continued for nearly 2 1/2 hours until tear gas was fired into the home.

"He immediately came out and gave up," she said.

Altogether, 12 people were arrested for investigation of federal firearms and narcotics crimes and 10 were held on state drug and weapons allegations, Raichel said.

Seven of those arrested on federal warrants already were behind bars for other crimes, she said.

Another 11 people were still being sought.

What was seized
Authorities also seized 24 guns, less than a pound of marijuana, some of the drug Ecstasy, $40,000 in cash and "a small quantity of counterfeit $10 bills," Raichel said.

During the two-year investigation, authorities also bought or recovered 28 other guns, including assault weapons, and drugs ranging from crack cocaine to methamphetamines, the ATF said.

"We will not stand idly by while street gangs wreak havoc on our communities," Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said in a statement.

"Today ATF is reinforcing the message that we will not put up with armed gang violence and the drug trade that fuels it," ATF Special Agent in Charge John A. Torres said in a statement.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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