Around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the DEA, FBI and the Visalia Police Department, ended a five-month investigation into a violent gang in the northern part of Tulare County.
“Operation Stray Bullet” targeted violent gang members for the last five months who are responsible for more than 30 reported and unreported drive-by shootings. Those gang members consisted of the Norteno Criminal Street Gang and associates, who were involved in crimes in the Visalia, Orosi and Culter areas.
Investigators were able to identify the structure of the gang, which was primarily being run by Edward Moran from Cutler. Moran and his associates were responsible for numerous drug sales, gun sales, shootings and also conspired to commit robberies, home invasions and conspiracy to commit murder.
The TCSO investigation intensified when an 8-year-old girl was shot in Seville last September. She was rushed to the hospital. She’s fully recovered. TCSO Deputies delivered Christmas presents to her a few weeks ago and she was all smiles. Through the investigation, Deputies were able to identify Jorge Barajas as the suspect in the shooting of that little girl.
On Thursday morning, nearly 300 law enforcement personnel from agencies throughout Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern Counties, along with Federal Agents with the DEA and FBI, served 25 search warrants in Farmersville, Visalia, Tulare, Cutler, Orosi, and Orange Cove, as well as 28 federal and state arrest warrants.
As a result, 25 people, including two teenagers, were arrested, some on federal charges and others on state charges, all of whom are part of the Norteno Criminal Street gang or associates. Among those arrested was Barajas, the main suspect in the shooting of the 8-year-old girl in Seville.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said the gang members arrested face charges ranging from drug sales, gun sales and shootings to conspiracy to commit robberies, home invasion and conspiracy to commit murder.
During the five-month investigation, Detectives seized 12 pounds of Meth, 150 pounds of processed marijuana, ½ pound of black tar heroin, 18 firearms, four assault rifles, one grenade, two silencers and two stolen vehicles.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux would like to thank the DEA, FBI, Homeland Security, ATF, the Visalia Police Department, as well as SWAT Teams from the Bakersfield Police Department, the Porterville Police Department, the Tulare Police Department, the Visalia Police Department, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office and the Central Valley Task Force. This massive operation wouldn’t have been possible without help from all of these agencies. No officers were hurt during Thursday’s operation.
Because of the hard work and determination of so many people, this group of gang members in the Cutler/Orosi area has been dismantled, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said.
“The people in this community deserve to feel safe when they lay their heads down at night. They shouldn’t live in fear. And without these criminals lurking around every corner, the good people of Cutler/Orosi can breathe a little easier tonight,” Boudreaux said. “These criminals are poisoning the minds of your children. During today’s operation, we arrested a 15 and 16 year old child. Those kids should have been sitting in school this morning, wondering who they’re going to ask to winter formal. Instead, they’re sitting in a jail cell. Their lives have been stolen by street gangs.”
Boudreaux continued to pledge as many resources as necessary will be used to stop criminals in their tracks.
“These violent criminals have no regard for human life, and they need to be stopped. And this morning, we did just that,” he said. “But we’re not done. We know there are many more violent gang members out there. And we will continue to hunt them down and put them behind bars, where they deserve to be. As Sheriff, my number one priority is the safety of the people who call Tulare County home. Today, I can proudly say, we are safer than we were yesterday. And with each criminal we track down and take off the streets, we will be safer than we were the day before.”
Edward Moran facesAssault with a deadly weapon, Gang conspiracy, Sales of an assault weapon, Burglary of an occupied residence, Possession of a firearm while being a documented gang member, Possession of a controlled substance for sales, Possession of marijuana for sales, bringing a controlled substance into a jail facility, Gang Enhancement