Tulare County home invasion sting nets 9 arrests

May 9, 2013 12:14:59 AM PDT
Nine people are under arrest in Tulare County, and an alarming number of weapons have been seized. It's all the result of a large investigation triggered by a string of home invasions.

The Tulare County sheriff says he's positive they've arrested most of the people responsible for 17 recent home invasion robberies.

Sheriff Bill Wittman says these are the weapons, masks, and gear used by suspects in a series of home invasions in Tulare County.

The sheriff says since the fall, their office noticed an up kick in home invasions. The increase in violence prompted him to form an 18 member task force to go undercover and find the people responsible.

While all haven't been charged with home invasion robbery yet, the sheriff believes these nine suspects are behind the 17 home invasions its department has investigated since October. And they laid out the evidence they say proves it.

Nearly a dozen guns, including a high-powered assault rifle called a tec-9, and bullet proof vests and dozens of cell phones, which Sheriff Wittman says the suspects took from victims to prevent them from calling police.

"Suspects were kicking in the doors, tying up the victims, ransacking the homes," said Sheriff Wittman. "They were using what we consider to be police tactics, wearing police-type uniforms, ski masks, bullet-proof vests."

Investigators even discovered a stolen Kern County Sheriff's Office radio and handcuffs. After seven months and thousands of hours of undercover work -- the task force arrested the suspects early Tuesday morning during a search warrant -- afraid the gang members were on the verge of committing another crime that would have hurt or killed a victim. Detectives say their work is not done, and are still looking for other suspects.

Lt. Kevin Cotton added, "We are currently seeking those individuals we do expect further charges to be file and we do expect further arrests to be made."

Over the next few days deputies say they'll be calling in the victims of the home invasions so they can identify some of their stolen property.

Right now most of the suspects are facing a number of drug and weapons charges, and they could face more as detectives sort through all of the evidence they seized.


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