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Officers stymie fight between rival gangs

Four youths were arrested Wednesday afternoon at Merced High School as police tried to head off gang fights between students before they happened, Cmdr. Tom Martin of the Merced Police Department said Thursday.

School officials learned a gang fight was planned between rival True Blue and Men of Destruction criminal street gang members after school. A 15-year-old boy was arrested at 1:21 p.m. and booked into Merced County Juvenile Hall on charges of possession of a dangerous weapon and gang enhancements. Officers found brass knuckles in the boy's pockets.

A 14-year-old and a 15-year-old were arrested on assault and battery and gang enhancement charges and booked into Juvenile Hall after they beat up a 15-year-old boy who was not a gang member.

A 16-year-old boy, not a gang member, was arrested on charges of interfering with officers and released to his parents.

Martin said school officials called the parents of some gang members and sent these students home early. Regular patrol officers joined school resource officers and the police department's Gang Violence Suppression Unit Wednesday afternoon at the West Olive Avenue campus.

The gang fight did not take place as rumored, Martin said.

Officers were right on top of the situation and shut it down before anything could happen. Some of the reasons for school resource officers' presence on campus is to prevent kids from being hurt, maintain a sense of order and help school officials do their job of educating students, Lt. Andre Matthews said.

Matthews said gang conflicts are an ongoing problem and the school environment used to be the safest place to send children.

Martin said Wednesday's arrests weren't a one-day deal and officers would continue to monitor and intervene at schools as necessary.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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