A Sacramento Police Department investigation into a Strawberry Manor neighborhood gang has resulted in the arrest of 20 suspected gang members.
Police announced the arrests at a news conference Tuesday, saying the suspects are believed to be connected with crimes including attempted murder, human trafficking, robbery, narcotics and firearm-related charges.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Challenger, began last November amid an increase in violence between the gang, who call themselves the Strawberry Manor Gangster Bloods, and the neighboring Del Paso Heights Bloods, said Capt. Marc Coopwood, who runs the department’s investigation division.
The high-profile 2015 killing of 17-year-old Jaulon “JJ” Clavo, a Grant High School football player, prompted the investigation, said interim police Chief Brian Louie.
“While there has been an arrest in this case, almost a year ago, we believe that there are other gang members that are involved and who assisted in this murder,” Louie said.
Clavo was shot in the neck while riding in a car with friends along Silver Eagle Road and Mabel Street on Nov. 13, 2015, hours before he was supposed to join his teammates on the football field.
Police charged 16-year-old Keymontae Lindsey with murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and a gang enhancement in connection to the shooting days later.
Sam Somers Jr., the police chief at the time, said Clavo did not know Lindsey and was not the intended victim in the shooting. Prosecutors handling the case later said Lindsey was “affiliated with or committed the shooting in service to” the Strawberry Manor Bloods street gang.
Along with the arrests, police served 20 search warrants and seized 11 firearms that they suspect were used to commit crimes. Coopwood said the Police Department finished its investigation Jan. 19, but is still seeking gang members who may have fled the state after hearing about the operation.
Police said they were processing evidence collected from Operation Challenger to make additional arrests. When asked if any of the 20 people were arrested in connection to Clavo’s shooting, Coopwood said the department was hopeful that they could use the evidence in the operation to “put the missing pieces together.”
As of Tuesday, the department said the Strawberry Manor Gangster Bloods could have as many as 100 members.
North Sacramento community leader Derrell Roberts, who organized the reward fund for information about Clavo’s death, praised police for taking guns off the street. He said the arrests made him “pause as someone who is trying to promote prevention and give positive direction” to youths.
“If anything, it’s a reminder to stay connected with the young people in the community,” he said.
Nicole Clavo, Clavo’s mother, did not respond to The Sacramento Bee for a comment Tuesday.
Agencies including the California Department of Justice, the California Highway Patrol and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office assisted in the operation, according to the Police Department.