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OAKLAND -- Oakland police arrested on Tuesday the alleged leader of a violent West Oakland gang and more than 30 of his accomplices who authorities linked to several homicides and a series of restaurant takeover robberies as well as carjackings, drug and weapons trafficking.
"It's a great day for Oakland and the people who live here," Police Chief Wayne Tucker said at a news conference, where authorities displayed photos of bags of powder cocaine and replicas of the 40 high-powered rifles and handguns and bulletproof vest seized in the raids.
"To the bad guys who are watching this program, we say: This is just the beginning," Tucker said. "If you're in the business of drugs and violence ... we're going to be relentless in our pursuit of you."
Among those arrested was Mark Chandler, a 33-year-old West Oakland resident who police identified as the leader of the Acorn gang. He was wanted in connection with at least one homicide and was a suspect in illegal gun- and drug-trafficking, police said.
Attorney General and former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, who attended the news conference, said the state Department of Justice will assist Oakland police in stepping up the pressure on suspected criminals such as those arrested this week.
"This is a major victory in a long struggle," Brown said.
Tucker said the arrests made the streets of West Oakland safer and that the department's raids would be followed up with more prevention and enforcement activities, including a more visible presence of officers patrolling by car, bicycle and on foot, as well as outreach to neighborhood crime prevention councils.
Police said they captured some of the men and women involved in a recent spate of restaurant takeover robberies that rattled the nerves of merchants and patrons.
Acorn gang members and associates have been at war for decades with each other and with rival West Oakland gangs, Lt. Ersie Joyner said.
Joyner said Acorn gang members and associates were responsible for the July 2006 death of Lath La, a Cambodian immigrant killed by a stray bullet while she was going to visit a friend in West Oakland.
"We hope we've taken the head off of the monster," Joyner said.
More than 400 officers from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participated in the raids in Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay. The three-month investigation was dubbed "Operation Nutcracker."
"Our message is: Life is precious," Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, who represents West Oakland, said at the news conference.
"There is a culture in Oakland, a culture of taking lives ... that has to stop. I thank Oakland police for bringing some of this culture to justice. I encourage anyone who wants to get out of this lifestyle to reach out to the city for help. The resources are here."