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3 ICE Agents Shot In Petaluma Gang Raid; Sweep Connected To 2010 Triple Killing

PETALUMA (CBS SF) - Three U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were injured Thursday by gunfire while executing high-risk federal warrants in Petaluma as part of a Bay Area gang sweep linked to a 2010 triple murder.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag joined state and local officials in South San Francisco to announce the arrests of 13 alleged members of violent Bay Area street gangs who were taken into custody in a multi-agency operation carried out at 11 locations Thursday morning.

Three special agents with ICE were shot during a raid in Petaluma Thursday morning in which one member of the 500 Block and C Street gangs—two separate gangs that work together—was successfully taken into custody after trying to escape while shooting at the agents, Haag said.

Haag said all three agents were hospitalized but are expected to survive.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the three agents who were injured during this morning's operation," Haag said. "My office is proud to be associated with professionals who put their lives on the line to protect others."

The agents were shot when they served warrants at a home near McNeil Avenue and South McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma at around 4:30 a.m., ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

KCBS' Chris Filippi Reports:

A total of 19 members of the Nortenos-affiliated 500 Block and C Street gangs were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on April 24.

Four suspects—Joseph Ortiz, 22, of South San Francisco; Victor Flores, 20, of Petaluma; Justin Whipple, 19, of San Bruno; and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 21, of San Mateo—are suspected of fatally shooting three men they believed to be rival gang members in South San Francisco in 2010.

On Dec. 22, 2010, Omar Cortez, 18, Gonzalo Avalos, 19, and Hector Flores, 20, all of South San Francisco, were fatally shot in a drive-by shooting at the intersection of Eighth Lane and Linden Avenue. Three other males between 15 and 20 years old were wounded but survived.

All four of those suspects will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, Haag said.

Sixteen of the 19 defendants named in the indictment have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and other charges.

Homeland Security investigations Special Agent in Charge Clark Settles called the operation a success.

"Today is a welcome day for residents of South San Francisco and a very bad day for an entrenched gang based here in the Bay Area," he said. "This indictment and the related arrests serve as a warning to local gangs about the consequences of using violence and fear to maintain control of their turf."

Settles also warned gang members throughout the Bay Area that federal, state and local authorities will keep working to bring criminal gangs to justice.

"Be looking over your shoulder, because there's a good chance we're coming for you next," Settles said.

Fifteen suspects are currently in federal custody and are scheduled to make their initial appearances in San Francisco before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Spero on Friday.

The Bay Area raids are not connected to the fatal shooting of an ICE officer in Southern California on Wednesday. Officials said that agent was killed by a shot fired through the window of his home in Carson.

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said the man was found shortly after 9 p.m. after his 14-year-old son apparently called 911. The son has been arrested for allegedly carrying out the shooting with his father's weapon.

The agent's name hasn't been released, but the Department of Homeland Security said he was involved in Homeland Security investigations.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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