Massive sweep leads to arrest and charge of 80 gang members

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- South Valley prosecutors have officially charged more than 80 gang members arrested in a massive sweep.

It was a winter morning when someone discovered a man's body on Road 152 east of Visalia. The victim died of several gunshot wounds, he was one of 4 murder victims killed recently in a deadly spree. Visalia police say the Norteno gang is responsible.

Sgt. Damon Maurice of the Visalia Police Department said, "Our goal is to provide some type of closure for the families by making these arrests and hopefully get a successful prosecution down the road."

Ten men and one woman are now in custody, all of them charged with those recent murders. They were arrested with 70 other apparent gang members in a massive sweep.

The sweep took months of planning. The Tulare County Sheriff's Office used a building at the International Agri-Center to process everyone that was arrested -- 52 in one day. The sheriff's office says they prepared the jails to make room.

"They increased the number of custody and transportation deputies," said Teresa Douglass, Tulare County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz says attorneys and staff worked through the weekend preparing charges. Filtering through thousands of reports. "We actually have a team of attorneys assigned to this case."

Murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, those are only the most violent crimes the gang is accused of and officials promise they'll keep working to prevent future violence.

"We still know we have a significant gang issue in this town and we will take all necessary steps to improve the life of our community," said Sgt. Maurice.

The court system and District Attorney's Office is working right now to figure out how best to split up these cases. It's unlikely all 82 people will be in one trial.
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