Local, state federal law enforcement on Friday announced the arrest of 34 people and the seizures of 64 guns in an operation that targeted prison and street gangs in Fresno County.
At least 13 of those arrested face federal charges, including several people who are facing conspiracy to commit murder in furtherance of a gang in Parlier and Reedley, prosecutors said.
The charges also include a slew of drug and guns crimes, a court filing shows, in what was a 100-day effort dubbed Operation Broken Bonds.
All 34 arrested remained in custody on Friday, investigators said. The other 21 yet to be charged could face local or state charges and were expected to be charged by Tuesday, according to Fresno County Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Veneman-Hughes.
“(Law enforcement) have been pulling together for two missions: Get justice for families that lost their loved ones, and stop the violence caused by this vicious street gang,” he said Friday.
He said prosecutors charged Francisco Munoz Jr., 26, with a special circumstances murder for the alleged killing of 52-year-old Silvano Medoza, who was in front of a home on Ninth Street in Parlier around 4:45 a.m. on June 13, 2021, when he and another man were shot.
Investigators said Mendoza was a farm laborer on his way to work and was a victim of mistaken identity.
Veneman-Hughes said at least 16 face charges other than homicide, like carjacking, witness intimidation and burglary.
Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said investigators were able to determine that some of the gang members intended to kill rivals, but deputies were able to intercept them before the act.
“We believe by getting those guns off the street and taking those individuals into custody, we did prevent violent crimes from happening,” he said.
Investigators said they believe some of those taken in were responsible for other violence in Parlier though they were not ready to name specific suspects on Friday.
One of those unsolved murders was the killing of 15-year-old Anthony Garcia, who was shot when someone fired into his Parlier home at King Street and Orit Avenue on June 30. Zanoni said detectives believe that case to also be a mistaken identity.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement applauded the work done by law enforcement across several jurisdictions.
“This operation sends a strong message that criminal activity targeting our communities and threatening public servants protecting Californians will not be tolerated,” Bonta said. “I want to thank the work of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for their collaboration in making Fresno County a safer place. Protecting public safety is our highest priority and we won’t rest until the job is done.”
Federal U.S. Attorney Kirk Sherriff said his agency has been investigating the Nuestra Familia prison gang and Norteno street gang in Parlier since 2021.