Brown Announces Major Compton Gang Crackdown, Arrest of Killer Mail Carrier

Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Contact: Gareth Lacy, California Department of Justice, (916) 324-5500 or Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Bill Braudberger, (323) 267-4813

COMPTON--Further escalating the state’s crackdown on violent gang activity, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department today announced that 24 Mob Piru gang members were arrested this morning in the City of Compton.

The arrests mark the conclusion of a major gang investigation, Operation Killen Court, launched by the California Attorney General and the Los Angeles County Sheriff after Kyutza Herrera, an innocent bystander, was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting involving rival gang members. Kyutza’s suspected killers and associates, Maruice Bennett, 19, Alex Graves, 23, Robert Maxwell, 19, and a fourth suspect who is a juvenile, were arrested during the course of the investigation into the Bloods-affiliated Mob Piru gang.

“The California Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Mob Pirus after four gang members gunned down an innocent woman,” Attorney General Brown told a news conference at the Compton Youth Athletic League. “State agents joined with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to crack down on this dangerous street gang that has terrorized Compton with constant violence and gang rivalry. We are proud to announce that sheriff’s deputies apprehended the killers and the state’s investigation led to dozens of additional gang arrests.”

The attorney general’s office launched its investigation after suspected Mob Piru gang members shot and killed Kyutza Herrera who was a parked in front of Ace Liquor at 12211 Long Beach Boulevard in Lynwood. Herrera, who was not affiliated in any way with either gang, was shot in her car when the suspects opened fire on rival gang members.

The attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement special agents joined the case to investigate Mob Piru gang members suspected to be connected to this shooting and other violent activity. During the investigation, state agents stopped an attempted murder outside of a nightclub and derailed a plan to rob a local post office by a gang member who was also a mail carrier. The gang was recently preparing to import at least 20 firearms from Georgia to sell to other gang members.

One of the gang members, Alex Graves, 23, a United States Post Office mail carrier, was arrested in connection with the drive-by shooting of Kyutza Herrera. Warren Phillipus, 28, also a mail carrier, was wanted in connection with the robbery of the Rancho Park Post Office and was caught by state agents as he was preparing to rob the Rimpau Post Office, both located in South Los Angeles. Phillipus has been charged with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon, and conspiracy to traffic marijuana.

“These gang members had regular day jobs but their gang affiliation was so strong that they continued to roam the streets, terrorizing the community,” Attorney General Brown said. “It is shocking that gang identity is so powerful that even good paying jobs are not enough to turn these suspects from their criminal activity,” Brown added.

Today’s gang crackdown, Operation Killen Court, is the culmination of a six-month investigation into the Mob Piru gang, an organization that killed, robbed and assaulted people in the City of Compton. Piru gangs first established themselves in Compton in the early 1970s to fight rival Crip gangs. The gang members named themselves after Piru Street, in Compton and called themselves “Bloods.” The Mob Piru gang, which gained national recognition in the 1990s along with the rise of gangster rap, has approximately 200 members and has connections to Oregon and New York.

During today’s crackdown, special agents identified 49 targets and made 24 arrests for offenses including murder, conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, marijuana trafficking, parole violations, and weapons violations. The Multi-Agency Response Team for Drug Endangered Children participated in today’s operation and were responsible for rescuing three children from felony child endangerment at two residences, one of which had a shotgun accessible to a child. Two of the children are 4-years-old, one is 10-months-old, and one is 1 and ½ years-old.

At approximately 6 a.m. today nearly 450 state, local and federal law enforcement personnel executed 33 search and arrest warrants and conducted 20 probation and parole searches in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Although agents seized small quantities of marijuana and “rock” cocaine, the gang’s foothold involved rival gang violence and subsequently, law enforcement seized 7 handguns, 4 rifles, and 1 sawed-off shotgun.

The California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement led today’s operation in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, known as LAIMPACT, which includes Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Los Angeles County Probation, California Highway Patrol, DEA, US Customs, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and Police Departments in Alhambra, Baldwin Park, Culver City, Downey, El Segundo, Gardena, Glendora, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, La Verne, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Pomona, Redondo Beach, San Gabriel, Santa Monica, Torrance, Vernon, West Covina and Whitter, also participated in today’s operation.

According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 1,000 gangs operating in Los Angeles County. Between 2003 and 2007, there were 7,482 gang-related crimes in Compton including murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, arson and motor vehicles thefts. In 2007, the city had 37 homicides of which 18, nearly 49 percent, were gang-related. Approximately 20 percent of all homicides in California are gang-related. Between January and April of this year, Compton has had a total of 13 homicides, 14 forcible rapes, 175 robberies and 326 assaults.

The California Department of Justice assists local law enforcement when gang problems have become so severe that the crime is bleeding into neighboring jurisdictions. State agents recently shut down a Norteño street gang and a violent Cambodian street gang in Stockton, a Sureño gang in Atwater and the Varrio Central Poros, a brutal criminal street gang that had terrorized the City of Porterville. State special agents have also participated in recent crime crackdowns in Oakland and East Palo Alto.

For an information wanted bulletin detailing the facts of the Kyutza Herrera shooting and photos of guns seized during the operation, please contact the Attorney General’s Press Office at (916) 324-5500 or the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at (323) 267-4813.

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