Some find it hard to believe that Santa Monica, with a median housing price of $1.6 million, is home to two entrenched gangs. The residents of the Pico Neighborhood, near Santa Monica College, know the fact well.
Preston Wayne Brumfield, 49, was a neighborhood character. He had a metal plate in his head from a past injury. On May 11, 2008 he was found in a pool of blood outside 1948 20th St. in the Pico Neighborhood. Police reported that he had insulted a member of a local gang, the Graveyard Crips, and was pummeled as a result. He died four days later at UCLA Medical Center.
Neighbors were outraged, prompting Santa Monica police to launch a major assault against neighborhood gangs that included wiretaps. The result includes the arrests of 14 suspects, four of whom were connected to the murder, and another four who are from a rival gang that operates in the same area. The latest arrest, of 27-year-old Jason Eddie Coleman, was announced yesterday. Also suspected in the Brumfield murder, he was picked up in South Los Angeles by Los Angeles police over the weekend.
Santa Monica police targeted the Graveyard Crips under what they called "Operation Tombstone." The Crips occupy turf behind Woodlawn Cemetery, which is at Pico Boulevard and 14th Street, across from the community colllege.
The neighborhood, nestled north of Pico Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and the West Los Angeles border, has long been home to the Crips, the SM13 (or SMG, for Santa Monica Gang) and smaller sets, some of which have died off.
It has historically been a Latino neighborhood, which was divided in two when the Santa Monica (10) Freeway opened in 1966, forming the community's northern border. The area remained comparatively depressed as property values in the rest of the city soared, though it's hardly an inner-city ghetto.
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Police investigated the the Crips for more than a year, using wiretaps, narcotics investigations and search warrants to come up with the arrests. The investigation also led police to scrutinize members of the adjacent Santa Monica 13 gang, leading to four arrests.
Last week, the department reports, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office notified 200 individuals that their phone calls were intercepted as part of the investigation. Some will be asked to cooperate with investigators, police said. Along with Coleman, Sammy Murphy, 50, Gwindon Love Murphy, 65, and Jason Anthony Hurtado, 26, were arrested on suspicion of murdering Brumfield. Coleman was also held on two narcotics warrants.
The following suspects, described by cops as Crips, were arrested in connection with narcotics sales: Shawn Rodney Martin, 25; Dante Lamar Harrington, 32; Dino Joseph Henry, 46; Guillermo Castellgarcia, 22; Frank Javier Villareal, 28; and Crystal Laurette Clark, 44.
Also nabbed in the operation were the following suspects, described as SM13 members: Florencio Astorga Hernandez, 32; Juan Godinez, 38; Filiberto Garcia Pena, 39; Mynor Alfonso Chacon, 35. Police said they are working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an attempt to hold the four on federal warrants in connection with their "street gang activity."