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Officers View Gang Threats as Part of Job : Crime: Police in Van Nuys react with concern and cool indifference after receiving warnings of deadly retaliation over a crackdown on drugs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While three alleged members of a Van Nuys gang remained in custody Sunday, arrested in a plot to kill police on New Year’s Eve, officers at the community’s police station said such threats are just part of what it means to wear a badge.

“It’s a concern, but it comes with the job,” a front desk officer flatly said. “At least in this case we’re getting warned.”

The warnings came in threatening phone calls and in flyers, posted near the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys station, which promised deadly retaliation against officers for cracking down on drug sales along the 14100 and 14600 blocks of Calvert Street, described by police as lucrative locations for dope-dealing gang members.

According to detectives, one flyer read: “Police have been screwing with our drug sales. So we’re going to screw with the police and kill two or three of them.”

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Officers at the Van Nuys station reacted to the threat with a mixture of concern and cool indifference.

“No one’s losing sleep over it. Just something to consider, that’s all,” said Officer Randy Holcombe of the Van Nuys station. Besides, officers sometimes hear of death threats and plots on the street, he said. They see graffiti threatening police officers. “There’s so much talk of that,” he said.

Still, authorities took the threats seriously enough to issue a special bulletin Dec. 9 calling for extra caution among officers patrolling the Van Nuys area. Police declined to name the gang but said it has operated in the area for decades.

The bulletin advised officers to be cautious but did not call for changes in operations or tactics, police said.

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“They’d be winning if we changed the way we do things,” Holcombe said. Officers already follow procedures designed for their safety, authorities said. The bulletin basically reminded officers to observe those procedures.

One officer said the bulletin echoed warnings from his days at the police academy. “Keep your head on a swivel,” he said, demonstrating by looking left and right. “Watch your back.”

Still, the threat has to be kept in perspective, said Sgt. G. Tam of Van Nuys. “There’s always a concern, but it’s not something we’re dwelling on,” he said. Supervisors will continue to brief officers on the threat during roll calls for a few days. After that, “it’s business as usual,” he said.

Police said information concerning the threat led to the arrest of Cesar Reveles and Hector Aleman, both of Van Nuys, and Sergio Camarena of Sylmar. The men, all 18, were in custody at the Van Nuys jail Sunday. No other arrests have been made.

Reveles and Camarena were being held without bail on suspicion of conspiring to kill a police officer. Aleman was held on $2,500 bail on suspicion of possessing a sawed-off rifle.

Down a long, narrow hallway from the jail, the front desk officer stood a few feet away from a wall where six photographs of police officers are mounted in somber frames.

A wooden plaque with the phrase “in the line of duty” hangs below the frames and name plates: Jack V. Evans, Sidney Z. Reigel, Randy Marshall, Paul L. Verna, Roger R. Warren Jr., Charles C. Caraccilo.

According to police, 175 Los Angeles police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1907. Of those, 88 were felled by suspects.

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The most recent death came in October when veteran homicide Detective Russell Kuster was gunned down by a man who rushed into a Hollywood Hills restaurant brandishing a 9-millimeter pistol. Kuster, hit four times, still managed to shoot and kill the man.


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