Fifty-seven members of a white supremacist gang were arrested in Orange County early Thursday in a sweep by hundreds of officers investigating alleged death threats against county law enforcement officials.
"We met early this morning and fanned out across the county," said Sgt. Rick Martinez, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department, one of numerous city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies from Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties that participated in the sweep.
Martinez did not specify which agencies were involved but all told, he said, about 300 officers representing 25 agencies served search warrants at 75 locations countywide.
"It was a very broad operation," he said.
A spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department said his agency had participated but could provide no further details. "Anaheim was really the lead agency," Lt. Hans Strand said. "We just provided support."
The investigation culminating in Thursday's raids began about a month ago, Martinez said, when law enforcement organizations learned that "a number of Orange County law enforcement officials" had been the target of death threats by members of Public Enemy Number 1, a white supremacist gang also known by the acronym PEN1.
Martinez could not say where the gang is based or how many members it has, though a report by the Anti-Defamation League describes the group as a "street-based skinhead gang."
He also declined to give specific information regarding the nature of the threats or at whom they were aimed, except to say that those threatened included officers and other law enforcement personnel, but not any elected officials.
As a result, Martinez said, several law enforcement agencies from throughout Southern California began working together to investigate the threats and other criminal activities allegedly involving the gang.
About nine gang members, he said, were arrested before Thursday's sweep on various charges.
Those arrested Thursday, he said, were being held at various correctional facilities throughout Orange County for a variety of suspected violations, including possession of illegal weapons, narcotics violations, forgery and identity theft.
He said it was unclear whether any of those arrested had been directly involved in the death threats, but said the investigation was continuing.
"We'll have to see where this will go," Martinez said. "It's possible there may be more arrests."
According to the Anti-Defamation League website, the gang is one of several "very large skinhead groups" in California, with a membership in the hundreds.
In addition, a 2004 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said the gang specializes in identity theft and drug dealing, sometimes working for two other racist groups, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Nazi Low Riders. That report said the gang's founder, Donald "Popeye" Mazza, was convicted in 2003 of the attempted murder of a drug informant.
The Southern California racist groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League, resemble traditional street gangs and often have ties to racist prison gangs.