Authorities in San Diego arrested 70 people and seized meth, fentanyl, heroin, guns, and stolen cars in a series of raids on individuals connected to white supremacist groups.
Local, state, and federal authorities wrapped up Operation Red Rider this week, a 10-month investigation against what authorities said was a well-organized crime syndicate.
“We will not tolerate lawlessness in San Diego,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a news conference. “These are the drugs that are killing our San Diego citizens. They are weapons that are being used to hurt our communities.”
The case came about from tips about drug trafficking in North Clairemont, about 10 miles north of downtown San Diego, officials said.
San Diego Police Chief Dave Nisleit said officers had responded to numerous calls, including two overdoses, at a home there. One resulted in a death on Dec. 2, 2021, he said.
Many of the people who frequented the area were part of a larger criminal network connected to white supremacist groups involved in drug trafficking, illegal gun sales, fraud, and auto theft, the chief said. Narcotics detectives linked the suspects to an investigation of an armed carjacking and multiple home invasion robberies in the city of San Diego.
As part of the operation, SWAT teams raided six homes and searched cells in the county, state, and federal prisons. Authorities seized 7 pounds of methamphetamine, nine ounces of fentanyl, over 1,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills, six ounces of heroin, four ounces of ketamine, seven firearms, and over 500 rounds of ammunition. Twenty-four stolen cars were also recovered.
Shelly Howe, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego, said 127,000 potentially deadly doses of fentanyl were seized.
“In 2021, 800 San Diegans died of fentanyl-related overdoses,” she said. “Our work is not done. Drug trafficking is a violent crime. It’s affecting the safety and security of our communities. The drug dealers and the cartels are driving the addiction in our county and in our country.”
San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan outlined the charges.
“Drug-related charges involve the sale of just about every kind of dangerous drug you can think of,” she said. “One defendant alone had 500 fentanyl pills. That is a recipe for death in our community.”
She said in one case one of the suspects walked up to a victim at gunpoint and robbed and assaulted him, taking cash, guns, and electronics.
Authorities found a hash oil lab at one house, a potential explosion hazard.
Neighbors said they hope the arrests will make the streets safer.
“Everybody tries to make this neighborhood nice,” Yvonne Sanchez told NBC San Diego. “That’s what is sad to us, that that’s going on across the street.
“I want all the kids to come back and run around in our streets, but it’s not possible with what’s across the street.”
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