In September of 2009, detectives from the Salinas Police Department Narcotics Unit served a search warrant at a Salinas residence on a suspected drug dealer. The suspect emphasized he did not want to go to jail and was willing to work with detectives for later judicial consideration. During a debriefing of the arrested drug dealer, information he provided later proved to be the catalyst which launched a multi agency, multi jurisdictional operation known as Operation
Intelligence information obtained while detectives investigated this case involved a high-level, notorious drug dealer known as Frank “Raccoon” Garcia. Garcia was believed to be selling large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine for the Nuestra Familia gangster organization. Garcia had also been identified as the leader of this drug trafficking operation and was possibly the largest drug trafficker in Monterey County.
As more intelligence was gathered related to Garcia’s criminal operation, detectives quickly realized the information being provided was accurate and corroborated information they had been gathering for the past several years. Garcia, however, had proven to be very difficult to catch as he had become proficient with counter surveillance tactics and the use of neighborhood children to conceal his criminal activities.
Sergeant Matt Maldonado and detectives from the SPD Narcotics Unit decided to take this information to the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Gang Suppression Enforcement Team (BNE-GSET). GSET was assigned by the State Attorney General to work in Salinas to help suppress rampant gang violence plaguing Salinas. The team specialized in conducting gang investigations using sophisticated technology and other methods for combating gang violence.
With the assistance of state investigators, SPD narcotics detectives utilized informants to purchase narcotics from one of Garcia’s runners and began to collect evidence over several months that would later support the arrest and prosecution of Garcia. Evidence collected in the initial stages of the investigation led to court-ordered technological surveillance of Garcia and several of his drug trafficking organization members. As the investigation progressed, undercover officers were introduced to some of Garcia’s drug runners and numerous controlled drug purchases were made.
Working in partnership with state investigators, SPD narcotics detectives worked six and seven day weeks and ten to fifteen hours a day monitoring technological surveillance equipment and to meet the needs of this fluid investigation. Detectives developed leads implicating Garcia in crime that involved drug dealing, robberies and murder.
Because of the scope and magnitude of the case the Salinas Police Department sought additional assistance from our federal law enforcement partners including the United States Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Several of the suspects arrested in this case were later charged and successfully prosecuted in federal court.
Operation Knockout lasted eight months and culminated with the “breakout” which occurred in April of 2010. The breakout required assistance from over twenty federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and over 250 law enforcement officers.
Operation Knockout resulted in the arrest of over 100 criminals in Salinas, 5 deported felons and the seizure of 26 firearms, 41 pounds of cocaine, 31 pounds of methamphetamine, 1? pounds of base cocaine and 24 pounds of marijuana. Asset forfeiture items included two Mercedes Benz cars, two custom built choppers and over $20,000 in cash.
Two subsequent follow-up operations were conducted in nearby counties as a result of Operation
Knockout. These investigations lasted several more months and netted over one-hundred additional arrests.
For their actions in Operation Knockout, the following personnel will receive the Salinas Police Department Outstanding Duty Award:
Sgt Matt Maldonado
Det Kendall Gray
Det Todd Kessler
Det Byron Gansen
Det David Poulin
Det Steve Hoyte
Det Robert Winningham
Off. Carlo Calupad
Off Robert Zuniga
Off Ken Hendrickson
Off Gerry Magana