Investigators following up on a fatal shooting earlier this year conducted searches at more than 10 locations and arrested three people Wednesday throughout the Los Angeles area in raids targeting the Mara Salvatrucha gang, which police say has been trying to establish a foothold in the San Fernando Valley in recent months.
Several additional suspects remained outstanding following Wednesday morning’s operation, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a written statement. “However, we expect to have them in custody in the coming days, and do not believe there is an immediate threat to the community. ”
“Investigators seized a myriad of weapons, ammunition, electronic media and gang paraphernalia from approximately 10 locations,” the statement said.
The multi-location bust was part of an ongoing investigation into the fatal Jan. 14 shooting of Bradley Hanaway, 34, in North Hollywood. Investigators believe MS-13 members were involved.
“Hanaway, who was experiencing homelessness at the time of his murder, was accosted and shot to death as he slept at the Valley Plaza Recreation Center,” according to the police statement.
His killing is not the only recent violent crime linked to the gang.
“Information obtained suggests the gang is also responsible for at least five other violent assaults related to this murder that occurred in the area of the recreation center shortly after the murder,” the statement added.
Investigators said MS-13 has been increasing its presence in the San Fernando Valley over the past year or so.
“Officials believe the gang is attempting to establish a foothold by directly challenging rival gangs in the area,” the LAPD statement said. “Investigators believe the murder of Hanaway by members of MS-13 was motivated by their attempt to claim the territory in and around the Valley Plaza Recreation Center.:”
The LAPD statement said Wednesday’s operation not only furthered the ongoing criminal investigation, “but also sent a message to MS-13 that their criminal presence will not be tolerated in the San Fernando Valley or anywhere in the City of Los Angeles.”
The LAPD teamed up with the Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services during the searches.
Nine children were evaluated by social workers, and “rigorous follow-up” is planned, officials said. No children were immediately removed from homes.