Gang bust with possible freeway shooting ties

Louis LaVenture,

Crime pays, but only if you don’t get caught. Twenty four alleged Norteño gang members found that out the hard way earlier this month.

On Aug. 10 the Concord Police Department, in collaboration with several neighboring local law enforcement agencies and the FBI, announced the culmination of operation “Omega Red” that netted the arrests of 24 alleged Norteño gang members on charges ranging from attempted murder to drug sales.

After a 10-week investigation, authorities made 24 arrests on Aug. 3 throughout the area that turned up over $15,000 in cash, 18 guns, substantial amounts of methamphetamine and heroin, two cars, a boat and two marijuana-growing operations with ties to hash oil production.

According to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, 31-year-old Sean Dunne and 28-year-old Mariano Coronado are the leaders of the local Norteño gang and this was the biggest bust in Contra Costa history. Authorities believe some of the suspects have ties to at least three of the 36 Highway 4 shootings that have taken place since Sept. 2015; however, there was not sufficient evidence to charge any of them with those shootings.

The “Omega Red” operation ended with 21 houses being searched and several jail cells at multiple facilities that involved over 300 officers, according to authorities.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never seen a task force as good as the one over there,” Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger said. “We wanted to get shooters off the street and that’s what they did. They knew who to go after and how to do it.”

In addition to attempted murder and drug sales, some of the more serious charges included conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to intimidate witnesses, conspiracy to commit assault with a firearm, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, rape and weapons possession. According to authorities involved in the task force, all of these charges could have more time on them if the suspects are proven to be gang members and given gang enhancements.

The Norteños are a street gang associated with the color red, the number 14 and the letter N. The gang originally started in the California prisons in the 1960s and 70s and was known as Nuestra Familia. It was started as a way for Latinos from Northern California to defend themselves in prison against the dominant Southern Latino gang La Eme, otherwise known as the Mexican Mafia, which identifies with the number 13 and the color blue.