A South Los Angeles home suspected of being a haven for a brisk rock-cocaine business was raided by sheriff's narcotics officers who then posed as drug dealers to arrest a succession of would-be customers, authorities said Saturday.
The officers, including sheriff's deputies from half a dozen stations throughout the county, raided the two-bedroom apartment in the 1000 block of East 79th Street Friday evening and arrested 12 people on various narcotics charges.
Over the next five hours, the Sheriff's Department arrested 23 other people--most of them apparently unsuspecting crack buyers who arrived at the ground-floor apartment and allegedly attempted to purchase rock cocaine from undercover officers.
"It went very, very smoothly," said Capt. Larry Waldie, head of the sheriff's narcotics bureau, who accompanied the initial team of officers during the raid. "We got in, and there were no altercations in the house whatsoever."
The so-called reverse sting was the second in the last two weeks by the Sheriff's Department, which received special funds earlier this year from the county Board of Supervisors to finance such operations. A similar sting in Carson on June 17 resulted in the arrests of nine men and two male juveniles, but this latest raid proved much larger and more diverse.
When officers arrived with a search warrant for the South Los Angeles home, more than a dozen people were already inside--some smoking crack and scurrying in the bedroom for cover. But there was no forcible entry and no weapons were found, said Sgt. Rick Adams, head of the Firestone crew that led the raid.
Even before officers could finish booking suspects, Adams said, would-be buyers began arriving at the darkened home to purchase rocks of cocaine. As each undercover buy was made, the alleged buyer was taken into the home and herded into one of the bedrooms to be frisked and questioned by waiting deputies.
In between sales, sheriff's vans would transport those arrested to nearby Firestone station.
In all, 22 men and 13 women were booked on a variety of charges including suspicion of soliciting the sale of cocaine, possessing cocaine for sale, interfering with a police officer and acting as a lookout for criminal activity.
Bail ranged from $1,000 to $2,500, sheriff's officials said.
As they were arrested, some people protested that they had been entrapped by the officers. "He just grabbed my money and shoved the cocaine in my hand," complained one man.
Officers defended the arrests.
Among those arrested was a 55-year-old grandmother of three who was booked after deputies found a glass crack pipe wrapped in tissue hidden inside her bra. She was charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.
A pregnant 16-year-old who was in the house at the time of the raid was detained but later released to her grandparents, Adams said. A young wheelchair-bound girl who lived in the upstairs apartment also was at the home and was allowed to return to her apartment, he said.
The raid was launched after neighbors had complained of the flow of visitors at all hours to the house.