Dozens of arrests as Operation Valley Vigilance sweeps through SJ Valley

A multi-agency task force aimed at disrupting gang operations within Riverside County descended on the San Jacinto and Coachella valleys early Thursday morning and resulted in dozens of arrests. Today’s part of the ongoing, 14-month operation – dubbed Operation Valley Vigilance – targeted individuals suspected of illegally selling drugs and weapons, according to officials.

The well planned and highly coordinated sweeps, which began around 6 a.m. with a heavy focus on locations throughout the San Jacinto Valley, reportedly involved 30 teams of local law enforcement officials from around the Inland area and Coachella Valley. Several federal and state agencies also assisted during the morning long sweep.

At least one of the alleged suspects targeted by the sweeps refused to exit his San Jacinto residence, leading to a standoff that last about two hours. The man, whose home has been the site of at least one other standoff earlier this year, eventually exited his home and was taken into custody.

LEADING THE RCNS HEADLINES:

Officials investigating Valle Vista homicide after man’s body found in driveway of vacant home

UPDATE: Crushed to death while working on truck, Hemet man, 58, ID’d

Man dies after crushed under dozer tracks at Rubidoux worksite

Today’s sweeps, which were overseen by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Gang Impact Team, were the second major phase of Operation Valley Vigilance and included plans to hit 47 locations with 41 arrest warrants and 21 search warrants.

Numerous tactical command vehicles, mobile command centers, and armored tactical rescue vehicles, converged on the San Jacinto Valley for the second major phase of Operation Valley Vigilance this morning. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

The first phase of the operation in June, 2017, resulted in 57 arrests, 77 guns seized, and a 1/2 pound of methamphetamine and other narcotics recovered. Officials are expecting similar numbers for this operation.

Residents within the San Jacinto Valley first began noticing the huge buildup of law enforcement officials around 5 a.m., as officials went over the last-minute details for the sweeps.

With countless marked and unmarked vehicles; heavily armed SWAT members, special team members, and patrol officers; several tactical armored rescue vehicles and tactical command vehicles; firefighters, paramedics, and other rescue personnel; a sheriff’s helicopter; and at least one mobile command center; the police presence was hard to miss.

At 6 a.m. sharp, all involved officials mobilized, simultaneously hitting countless locations throughout the area.

One home of particular concern, which has been the location of several major police operations including at least one hours-long standoff within the past year, was located within the city of San Jacinto on the 1700 block of Rolling Meadows Court. The home, which is well-known to area law enforcement, is located southeast of N. State Street and Quandt Ranch Road, directly behind Mt. San Jacinto College.

Officials converged onto the small cul-de-sac and began hailing Nicolas Sahagun, 33, of San Jacinto. Despite using a PA system and sirens to hail Sahagun and order him to exit his residence at the end of the short street, the man refused to exit the home.

Based on their previous interactions with Sahagun, officials were well prepared and within minutes SWAT members were on scene with a tactical armored rescue vehicle, mobile command center, and other specialized equipment.

Numerous law enforcement officials from local, state, and federal agencies participated in this morning’s sweeps. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

Fire personnel and tactical paramedics were also on hand and prepared to assist if needed.

Sahagun eventually exited the home and was arrested shortly before 8 a.m., to sporadic cheers from area neighbors, many of whom say they are fed up with the constant police presence caused by Sahagun’s alleged criminal activities.

“It’s not fair and to be honest we’re all fed up,” area resident Mary Hogstaat later said.

“Frankly, we’re afraid of him and the criminal element surrounding his house,” Hogstaat explained. “We wont even let our kids play outside because we don’t ever know when the next big raid is going to happen.”

SEE RELATED: SAN JACINTO: Hours-long standoff leads to man’s arrest, weapons seizure

During the short standoff, Animal Control officials were on scene and law enforcement officials used a long catch pole to capture a large, pit bull breed dog and bring the dog from the home. Officials eventually loaded the black and white dog into a silver hatchback, which was allowed to leave the area.

In a video posted to social media but later removed, one resident who was not identified said she was happy to see the dog go and hoped it was not allowed to return saying many area residents were afraid of the pit bull, which is known to run lose at times.

A Riverside PD tactical armored vehicle sits in front of a home hit by officials during this morning’s operation. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

“Everyone in the neighborhood wants that dog gone,” the woman can be heard saying in the video.

Although the nearly ten minute long video of the Quandt Ranch standoff was posted to social media, it was later temporarily removed at the request of law enforcement officials.

The video, published by ENMedia Productions and Hemet News, will be available again at the completion of today’s operation. (UPDATE: Video has been re-uploaded and can be viewed below.)

Joseph DelGiudice, chief of the Riverside County DA’s Bureau of Investigation, later explained the DA’s Gang Impact Team works diligently to disrupt the overall organization of gangs within Riverside County.

According to DelGiudice, today’s sweeps and the ongoing Operation Valley Vigilance were the culmination of continuing investigations that have involved numerous agencies as well as undercover weapons and narcotics purchases.

“The trafficking in firearms has an impact on the larger community, and the work is inherently dangerous,” DelGiudice said.

“When we did the first operation, we knew there was going to be a second,” DelGuidice explained. “We identified more targets that we could not give time to – there were logistical reasons, manpower, especially.”

“It’s not possible to do it safely without the help of our allied agencies as well as our state and federal partners,” aid DelGuidice. “So coordinating them and being able to brief them on the items of evidence we are seeking – a lot goes into that.”

According to DelGuidice, during the 14-month operation Gang Impact Team members have assisted in ten homicide investigations, some of which were solved and resulted in arrests and prosecution.

Although totals for today’s operation have not yet been tallied and released, in addition to Last June’s successful sweeps that resulted in nearly five dozen arrests and the seizure of more than seven dozen weapons, the buildup and preparation for this morning’s operation have already resulted in four dozen additional arrests, 45 more guns purchased or seized, and about five pounds of methamphetamine already recovered.

Officials say they will be releasing figures and details for today’s operation later today or tomorrow.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

(Photos temporarily withheld at request of law enforcement officials. Photos will be uploaded shortly, please check back.)

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 14 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

6 comments

Leave a Reply