Deputy Shooting Linked to Gang Wars; Two Held

Times Staff Writer

Two Los Angeles street gang members accused in the roadside attack on a Riverside County deputy sheriff who was shot twice and wounded were captured early Monday in a Corona industrial park, authorities said.

A third suspect was still at large even though dogs and helicopters were used in a search of the 60-acre industrial park, authorities said.

"We have reason to believe he is armed and extremely dangerous," said Sheriff's Capt. Ken Golden. "We have people looking for him in the Corona area as well as in Los Angeles."

The three alleged assailants led police on a high-speed chase after Deputy Joseph Cleary, 24, was shot Sunday night when he stopped their car on California 60 in Moreno Valley, authorities said. The men abandoned their car 25 miles to the west in Corona and ran into the industrial park to hide.

Condition Stable

Cleary, a four-year veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which provides police protection for Moreno Valley under contract with the city, was listed in "good and stable condition" at Riverside Community Hospital, where he was treated for wounds in the lower abdomen and wrist, authorities said.

Being held on suspicion of attempted murder with great bodily injury at the Riverside County Jail was Nathaniel Calvin Tillman, 23, of Los Angeles, authorities said. The other suspect, a 16-year-old Los Angeles youth whose name was withheld because of his age, was being held at the county's juvenile detention center.

Investigators said the captured suspects are members of one of two Los Angeles-area street gangs currently fighting for control of cocaine trafficking in the Riverside area.

"We have confirmed the suspects are members of the Palmer Block Crips gang out of Compton," said Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Michele Amicone. She said the Crips, with dozens of chapters in Southern California, are "warring here" with a rival gang called the Bloods, also of Los Angeles.

"It started a few months ago," Amicone said. "Gang members have told us that this area is 'virgin territory' . . . that they can make double or triple their money on cocaine out here because they don't have as much competition from other gangs as they do in Los Angeles."

The shooting took place about 8:10 p.m. Sunday, shortly after Cleary stopped a late-model car that matched the description of one reported earlier as containing "several men . . . who appeared to be dealing narcotics," Golden said.

The officer was questioning the driver, who had stepped outside of the car, when one of the other men fired at least two rounds, Golden said.

The wounded officer returned fire and called for help as the three men sped away in the car, Golden said. About 10 minutes later, a Riverside County deputy spotted the car on California 91 in Corona and chased it.

Run to Industrial Area

The car lost control on an off-ramp in Corona and hit a palm tree, Golden said. "They jumped out of the car and ran down the off-ramp toward an industrial park, firing at least one round at a deputy in pursuit." That deputy was not hurt, Golden said.

The complex was cordoned off throughout the night as Corona police, aided by California Highway Patrol officers, sheriff's deputies, helicopters and tracking dogs combed the area.

"We caught one of them at 6:30 a.m. (Monday) hiding in some bushes," said Corona Police Sgt. Roy Heightman. A few minutes later, another suspect was found walking through a parking lot, he said.

The third man is believed to have fled the area. "We know who he is," said Sheriff's Lt. David Russell. "The focus of the search now appears to be in the South-Central Los Angeles area." Russell declined to release the suspect's name.

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