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There hasn’t been much gang-related crime in Highland Park lately—but that could change, police say, as the leader of a gang arrested in Eagle Rock in August becomes eligible for bail.
Officers from multiple Los Angeles Police Department units arrested a notorious auto thief from Eagle Rock Plaza on Aug. 2, 2012. The arrest coincided with an anti-gang initiative in Highland Park that "took lots of guns off the streets,” according to Steve Aguilar, a detective in the LAPD’s Northeast Division gang detail. In all, said Aguilar, eight handguns were seized and 10 or 12 active, hardcore gang members were taken into custody.
“He’s a ‘shot caller,’” Aguilar explained, referring to a term that police officers use to describe gang members who “call the shots” within a certain gang.
Currently in jail for violating parole under the so-called "post-release community supervision program," the leader, from a gang formally known as the Highland Park Gang, will become eligible for bail on Oct. 22, Aguilar said.
The gang leader is being prosecuted for Grand Theft Auto at Eagle Rock Plaza, and that case is still continuing, Aguilar said. Meanwhile, he was sent to Los Angeles County Jail for violating parole (after being convicted of a narcotics-related crime) by allegedly indulging in auto theft, Aguilar explained. The gang leader was ineligible for bail for a maximum period of 90 days, he added.
“For the past two or three weeks, it’s been really quiet,” Aguilar said. “There are still a lot of gang members out there—there’s just no leadership—and we’re bracing for his [the gang leader’s resumption of] parole.”
Although the gang leader is not a suspect in any current crime, “we know he’s a shot caller, and when he comes out crime could increase,” Aguilar said, adding: "We'll be tracking him to make sure he doesn't start gang problems again."
The gang leader is in his mid-30s, and because he is not a suspect in any crime, his name and other details about him are not being released.
The only gang-related incident that the LAPD has been aware of lately in Highland Park involved the accidental shooting of a 39-year-old gang member this past Thursday around 6 p.m., Aguilar said.
The gang member, who lives in Highland Park, among other places, and belongs to a gang based in the Rampart area, reported to police that he was shot in the leg. But when Detective Rick Ortiz, who heads the Northeast Division’s gang detail, examined the man, it became apparent that, based on the bullet’s trajectory, the gang member could not possibly have been shot at by a rival from the street, Aguilar said.
“He admitted he shot himself,” Aguilar said, adding that the gang member was taken to hospital for treatment.
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly said that the gang leader would be eligible for parole by the end of October or early November. He will, in fact, he eligible for bail and will be resuming parole on Oct. 22.