Local police kept busy over the long holiday weekend, responding
to several gang-related crimes including a drive-by shooting on
Christmas Eve.
Hollister – Local police kept busy over the long holiday weekend, responding to several gang-related crimes including a drive-by shooting on Christmas Eve.

Overall, police were busier this holiday weekend compared to the same time last year. Hollister police made seven drunk driving arrests this year compared to last year’s five, responded to nine accidents compared to five in 2004 and recorded eight gunshots heard when only five were heard and reported last year, according to Hollister Police Capt. Richard Vasquez.

However, it’s the rise in gang violence over the holidays that has police concerned and working overtime to track down leads and make arrests.

“There has been a little surge in activity – any drive-by concerns us,” Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller said. “Everyone here is very dedicated. Officers are coming in on their days off and doing extra patrols to target the gang problem.”

Police believe gang members fired at least two shots into a home in the 500 block of Nash Road shortly after 2am on Christmas Eve. Although several residents of the home were inside at the time of the shooting, including one suspected gang member, no one was injured in the shooting, Vasquez said. Police believe the suspects were driving a red Chevy Blazer, but have not made any arrests and are continuing to investigate the incident, Vasquez said. Police are also investigating two other drive-by shootings that occurred during the previous week. No one was injured in either of those shootings and police believe both were gang-related because suspected gang members live at both residences.

“Over the holidays we’re had members of our gang units on patrol,” Vasquez said. “Gang violence is growing and anytime it’s growing we are concerned.”

Officers continue to work closely with the San Benito County Probation Department and Sheriff’s deputies to battle gang violence throughout the county, he said.

San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies also arrested three suspected Norteno gang members on Dec. 29 with drug possession charges, Undersheriff Pat Turturici said. Deputies spotted the three Hollister men, one a known parolee, driving on Chaparral Road wearing red clothing with gang insignia indicative of a Norteno street gang. Deputies pursued the car and saw the driver, 27-year-old Michael Quiroz, flee the car on foot. After a brief chase, Quiroz was caught and arrested, Turturici said. Police found more than 7 grams of methamphetamine in two separate bags in Quiroz’s pocket. Police also confiscated a scale commonly used for weighing quantities of drugs for sale. Quiroz was arrested on several felony charges including participation in a criminal street gang, possession of methamphetamine for sale and criminal conspiracy. The other two men in the car, 38-year-old Robert Barraza and 24-year-old Cesar Hernandez, were arrested on similar charges and taken to the San Benito County Jail, Turturici said. Police believe the men were working together to sell the drugs, he said.

“They are selling drugs to buy more drugs to buy weapons,” he said.

Police are still investigating the incident, which they hope will lead to more arrests.

“The investigation is on-going to see if we can tie this in with other (recent) shootings,” Turturici said. “We’re being very effective – we’re making arrests.”

The recent arrests are part of a continuing effort to eradicate criminal street gangs from the area, San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill said.

“We’re just starting here – this is the opening,” he said. “We’re taking guns off the streets and gang members know we are looking to put them in prison.”

Brett Rowland covers public safety for the Free Lance. He can be reached at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected].

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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