Los Angeles city officials are asking a judge to prohibit gang members from entering or staying at a Watts home they say has emerged as a dangerous stronghold used to store guns and sell drugs a few blocks from two elementary schools and a church.
City Atty. Mike Feuer said the three-bedroom house on East 113th Street, not far from the Watts Towers Arts Center, is a gathering place for members of a street gang.
In the last four years, police officers have made 14 arrests and recovered 16 guns, including five assault rifles, at the property, according to a complaint filed Friday seeking an injunction to stop gang members from congregating at the house.
“It is an extraordinary thing to live in the shadow of a cache of weapons like this,” Feuer said.
Since taking office in 2013, Feuer’s office has obtained more than 45 similar injunctions and shuttered eight gang properties.
The latest complaint alleges that three members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang live in the home, owned by their mother. The homeowner could not be reached for comment.
If the injunction is granted, the city would have the authority to shut down the property if the injunction’s terms are violated, Feuer said.
This month officers from the Southeast division gang enforcement detail found an AK-47 assault rifle in the bushes outside the house. The home’s occupants were hosting a late-night July 4 cookout and had blocked off the street with cars and orange cones.
Officers returned to the home four days later and found a handgun in one occupant’s bedroom and two assault rifles and a handgun hidden under a floor panel, the complaint said. Bags of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine were also found, according to the complaint.
Jayshawn McKnight, 25, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a handgun. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to show that he owned the handgun and declined to pursue charges, according to a district attorney’s memo.
“There are moments when it is just not enough to try and arrest our way and prosecute our way out of these serious problems. It is just too intractable for that. It just keeps coming,” Feuer said.
Using nuisance abatement lawsuits to shut down gang headquarters has been a popular tactic with law enforcement officials for more than a decade.
It was first used in Los Angeles in 2004 when then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo obtained an injunction to shut down an entire apartment complex at 69th and Main streets, which he said was home to members of the East Coast Crips gang.
The lawsuits have the “power to transform a neighborhood,” said John D’Angelo, the assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Los Angeles. ATF agents referred the property to the city attorney for investigation, he said.
“What the abatement tells them is you are not welcome in this neighborhood,” he said. “Which really disrupts, in many respects, their whole method of operation.”