Forty-nine fugitives in the Tri-Cities got an unwelcome holiday surprise when law enforcement officers set out on a two-day gang sweep.
"Operation Holiday Express" targeted criminal gang members in the Tri-Cities who had warrants out for their arrests.
Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg said officers had 60 gang-involved fugitives from Kennewick, Pasco and unincorporated parts of Benton County on their target list for this roundup.
Hohenberg released details of the sweep during a news conference Thursday at the Kennewick police station with Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger and Benton County sheriff's Capt. Clay Vannoy.
Not all of the 49 arrests made Tuesday and Wednesday included people on the list, Hohenberg said; however, the arrests involved 44 felony charges, 45 misdemeanors and nine juveniles.
"The message we're trying to send out is, 'If you're going to engage in criminal gang activity in the Tri-Cities and you're going to be firing weapons off where some innocent person is going to be hurt, we're going to hunt them and put them in jail,' " Hohenberg said.
A gang sweep had been planned at some point before Jan. 1, but Hohenberg said two recent drive-by shootings in Kennewick prompted officials to act this week.
No arrests have been made in the Dec. 1 and Dec. 11 shootings, and Hohenberg said officers are not getting much cooperation from those known to be involved.
In the first drive-by shooting, multiple gunshots were fired around 8:15 p.m. into a mobile home at 2906 W. Seventh Ave. The home was occupied, but no one inside was hit.
On Dec. 11, just before 1 a.m., several shots were fired at a home at 704 S. Hawthorne St. Witnesses reported seeing a maroon minivan or Ford Explorer speeding away.
"When people do engage in this kind of activity, it's kind of like corporal punishment -- everybody has to pay as a result of that ... and this is the end result," Hohenberg said. "We're not going to tolerate this kind of behavior. ... If you want to fire a gun off in one of our jurisdictions, we're going to put in a lot of resources and it's going to be very high on our priority list."
Metzger, who took over as Pasco's chief about two months ago, said cooperation between agencies in the Tri-Cities is critical to keeping the community safe and letting criminals know their actions won't be tolerated.
"Our message is 'We're coming after you,' " Metzger said.
Metzger is working to form a dynamic unit in the Pasco Police Department that will be able to focus on the current primary issue in the city. At the moment, that would be gangs, he said.
Metzger said he will be collaborating with the city manager to determine how much of the new criminal justice sales tax revenue can be used on the new unit. He said he hopes to present information to the city council early next year.
Tri-City law enforcement agencies have joined forces with federal officials on five other gang sweeps since July 2009. A total of 234 fugitives were arrested in those hunts.
This week's sweep was a first for Metzger, but he said the history of cooperation among agencies was one thing that attracted him to Pasco's top cop job.
"Even though there's a river between us, it doesn't stop crime from going back and forth," he said.
About 80 officers from multiple agencies participated in the operation.
Agencies involved in Operation Holiday Express were: Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland and Grandview police departments; Benton County and Franklin County sheriff's offices; U.S. marshals; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Drug Enforcement Agency; state Department of Corrections and Benton Franklin juvenile justice officials.
The following were arrested on felony warrants: Josue Barrera, 20, of Pasco; Brad Berges, 44, of Finley; William Cantell, 45, of Kennewick; Carmen Gomez, 20, of Kennewick; Fernando Gonzalez, 28, of Benton City; Frank Gonzalez, 20, of Kennewick, Christopher Jackson, 30, of Kennewick; Manuel Jaime, 22, of Grandview; David Kreienbrink, 30, of Kennewick, Barry Labar, 28, of Kennewick; Jessica Lopez, 25, of Kennewick; Israel McClelland, 34, of Kennewick; Mark Pettit, 24, of West Richland; Ray Rocha, 43, of Kennewick; Jose Sanchez, 27, of Benton City; Sergio Tijerina, 28, of Kennewick; Anna Vazquez, 48, of Kennewick, Danna Warnick, 39, of Pasco; Imogene Williams, 46, of Finley; Aaron Wright, 29, of Kennewick; Gabriel Writer, 33, of Kennewick; three teen boys from Pasco and one teen boy from Kennewick.