75 arrests in Merced County gang take down

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- State agents joined local law enforcement in arresting dozens of suspected gang members in Merced County. 75 gang members are in custody after a major law enforcement crackdown. Sheriff's deputies along with city police, highway patrol, and state agents fanned out over the county to arrest suspects in violent crimes.

Deputies covered the 2,000 square mile county on the ground and in the air, looking for gang members wanted for violent crimes. Acting on a tip they searched an orchard looking for a murder suspect. After asking for directions they found one of the suspects David Zamora on a ladder, picking apricots. He was taken into custody without incident.

Detective-Sgt. Chuck Hale said, "We try to catch them off guard and catch them when they don't expect us to be coming for them."

Zamora is wanted in connection with a gang shootout in the Merced County town of Winton last month in which two people were killed. He was just one of about 75 suspects snared in this incident. Drugs, cash and pirated DVDs were also seized. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke says it's the first big step in dealing with the escalating gang problem in this rural county.

Sheriff Vern Warnke explained, "We've go so much in the way of gangs in the Merced area proper and they are infiltrating into Planada, Delhi, and Le Grande and this is the first of many sweeps and we are going to continue to use other agencies to help us."

The county fairgrounds served as the command center for the operation and the suspects were booked and loaded into a jail bus as they were brought in.

Sheriff Warnke says these are all suspects in violent crimes and will be held in jail at least until their court appearances.
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