Five suspected gang members were arrested Wednesday in Atwater in connection with a string of recent shootings, the Police Department reported.
Those arrested include Asuncion Rodriguez, a 29-year-old Atwater man commonly known as “Garfield,” whom police describe as a “ringleader” and “key player” in a Sureño street gang within the city, Lt. Samuel Joseph said.
Investigators also arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection with the recent violence, along with Erick Guillen, 28, Joaquin Flores, 24, and Jesus Estrada, 20, Joseph said.
The arrests came Wednesday as police served numerous search warrants in connection with at least three recent shootings. Officers seized two firearms, including one believed to have been used in one of the shootings. Joseph declined to comment on details of the two firearms, citing a need to protect the ongoing inquiry.
“We do anticipate making more arrests in this case,” he said.
Police have been investigating a series of shootings in recent weeks. No injuries were reported in the shootings, but police believe they are all connected.
The group arrested Wednesday, police said, has been tied to several recent shootings, including one Feb. 16 in the 1100 block of Swaps Street. A vehicle was struck and numerous shell casings were found at the scene, but no one was injured. Several people escaped injury in another shooting reported Saturday on the same street block, police said.
The 15-year-old arrested Wednesday is believed to have been the triggerman in at least one of the recent shootings, Joseph said.
The Atwater police lieutenant praised the investigation conducted by Detective-Sgt. David Brum and Detectives Tony Cardoza and Matthew Vierra. He also said the Merced Police Department’s gang unit and the Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Task Force provided vital assistance during the investigation.