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Feds announce in Kent large gun, drug bust in South King County

Kelvin Crenshaw, a ATF special agent, left, and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg on Tuesday at Kent City Hall look over illegal guns seized in South King County during recent arrests. - STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter
Kelvin Crenshaw, a ATF special agent, left, and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg on Tuesday at Kent City Hall look over illegal guns seized in South King County during recent arrests.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

Federal agents and South King County police agencies arrested 33 people as well as seized 28 guns and nearly $1 million worth of drugs during a three-month crackdown in Kent, Renton, Tukwila, Federal Way and other cities.

The U.S. Department of Justice held a press conference Tuesday at City Hall in Kent to announce the crackdown on gun and drug crimes called "Operation Down in the Valley."

Officials displayed at Council Chambers at City Hall more than two dozen guns seized by agents and officers in a focus on a 20-square mile where police agencies know gun and drug deals are happening.

"This was an effort that was focused on a hot spot in South Seattle and South King County," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan at the press conference. "We have learned that often criminals take advantage of the fact that jurisdictions dealing with only themselves cannot deal with the criminal activity traveling up and down the I-5 corridor. Our office partnered with local (police) to make sure we are attacking criminals as a group."

Charging documents against the people arrested for dealing drugs list restaurant and shopping center parking lots in Kent, Federal Way, Tukwila and Burien as spots where drug deals were committed.

"I want to emphasize that the people arrested were not from Kent," Durkan said. "We are not here because Kent has a problem with Kent people. What we have seen is people from other areas coming and having their criminal activity throughout South Seattle and South King County."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation led the investigation and took nearly 14 pounds of methamphetamine off the street as well as cocaine, heroin and prescription narcotics.

The three-month initiative is the second Hot Spot initiative in the Seattle area. Agents ran a similar focus on White Center in 2011.

"This initiative shows we will continue to focus on violent crime and gun crime throughout Western Washington," Durkan said.

The police department and agencies involved included the Valley Gang Unit (including officers from Kent, Renton, the Port of Seattle, Tukwila, King County Metro and the state Department of Corrections) the Seattle Police Department, the FBI and the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

The cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecutors Office.

"We heard people were reluctant to sell guns because there is so much heat on guns from law enforcement," Durkan said. "We want that message out today. They are right. We will continue to focus on violent guns and crime and get them off the street. We are here and in every jurisdiction to make sure the communities are returned to the people who live there."

Durkan said it was not a focus on gangs but a geographical area where police know drugs and guns are sold from individual to individual.

"It was small amounts of drugs to a large delivery of meth," Durkan said.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg praised the work of the agents and police.

"This is a poison in our community - 28 guns used exclusively in criminal enterprises and nearly a million dollars of drugs," Satterberg said at the press conference. "Had this remained in our community we can only begin to imagine how much misery this would cause. These guns are used by criminals in crimes to kill, assault and rob to further gang and gun violence. The drugs are out there to be sold from dealers to addicts and to people who dealers hope become addicts."

Durkan said guns and illegal drugs need to be taken off the streets and away from criminals.

“Drug trafficking, and the violent crime it spawns, is not limited to our urban areas,” Durkan said. “We must make our neighborhoods places for people to thrive. ‘Hot spot’ initiatives such as this seek to identify and root out the bad actors who are making our communities unsafe."

Some of those arrested and charged, according to the U.S. Justice Office, as part of the hot spot initiative include:

• Cedric and Terrance Jackson are charged with conspiracy and multiple counts of distributing cocaine and crack cocaine.  When arrested at his Tacoma home on Oct. 18, Cedric Jackson had four firearms including a Tek-9; a Glock with an extended magazine; a Taurus .357 revolver and a Russian-made revolver.

• Alonso Enrique Pelayo was arrested Oct. 22 after reportedly selling several firearms to a person working with law enforcement. One of the guns was a sawed-off shotgun and two of the handguns had been reported stolen in Snohomish County.

• Jorge Fernandez-Munoz is charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and was arrested Oct. 17 outside the Tukwila Target store where he had allegedly set up a 2-pound methamphetamine deal with a person working with law enforcement.

“Criminals don’t pay attention to jurisdictional lines or borders, which is why law enforcement partnerships that bring together a variety of enforcement authorities are incredibly important,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge HSI Seattle. “HSI is committed to disrupting criminal enterprises at every level of their operation, from their associates in the U.S. to their leadership abroad.”

Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas appreciated the work by federal agents with local police.

“This has been a great partnership between the ATF and local police to combat upper level gang members engaged in organized criminal activity in our region,” Thomas said. “This type of operation is necessary to deal with the worst of the worst gang members so our programs of prevention and intervention will have a real opportunity to be successful. Our communities are safer due to this important work.”

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