Eastside Wilmas armed gang members with ghost guns in L.A. Harbor area, authorities say

A table laden with handguns and rifles, with police officials in the background.
Officials speak in Wilmington on Monday about how Los Angeles police detectives and federal agents recovered ghost guns and other firearms used by the Eastside Wilmas gang.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Federal agents and Los Angeles police detectives uncovered a supply line of custom-made, untraceable ghost guns being built to arm gang members on the streets of Wilmington, authorities said Monday.

LAPD Deputy Chief Gerald Woodyard said LAPD narcotics detectives working with the Long Beach-based Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents recovered 82 firearms, including 42 ghost guns used by the Eastside Wilmas gang, along with 19 pounds of methamphetamine, 5½ pounds of cocaine and 3 kilograms of fentanyl. The task force made 18 arrests including seven last week connected to various assault, gun and narcotics charges.

“We all want the community to be safer,” said Woodyard, noting that 41 search warrants were executed over a three-year period of the operation dubbed Operation Ghost Chasers.


Jennifer Cicolani, acting special agent in charge of the ATF in Los Angeles, said the operation targeted the shot callers of the Eastside Wilmas and their chain of weapon manufacturing in Long Beach, Wilmington, San Pedro and Arizona.

“As the investigation grew, the spiderweb grew, reaching into other violent gangs in the area, connecting Eastside Wilmas to other Harbor area gangs,” Cicolani said.

The four-day, multi-agency takedown included searches of 97 homes in Tulare County, where six people, including a baby, were gunned down last month.

Feb. 27, 2023

She warned that the privately made firearms — better known as ghost guns, without serial numbers — are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes. Gangs are now getting guns made instead purchasing them through straw buyers or stealing them, Cicolani said.

The ATF said it has recovered 45,240 such ghost guns during the last five years from crime scenes, including 629 homicides.

Councilman Tim McOsker, who represents District 15, said there was a shooting in Wilmington, just outside of Wilmington Park Elementary School, that left a 12-year-old boy dead and injured a 9-year-old girl and a mother in December 2021.

“They were all in the place they should be, but they were caught in the crossfire of gang warfare,” McOsker said. “So this is not just an academic exercise of taking guns off the street, this is real impact.”


Eric Holder Jr. was sentenced to at least 60 years in prison after his murder conviction in the 2018 shooting death of Crenshaw rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Feb. 22, 2023

LAPD Harbor Division Capt. Brent McGuyre said many of the weapons recovered had modifications including silencers.

“One of the Glock handguns has a modification to make it a fully automatic handgun,” he said.

The weapons, some of which were fully automatic, ended up in the hands of the Eastside Wilmas gang, which for two generations has laid claim to the eastern part of the harbor town and surrounding neighborhoods, authorities said.