Federal agents and Los Angeles Police Department detectives discovered a supply line of custom, untraceable ghost weapons being built to arm gang members on the streets of Wilmington, authorities said Monday.
LAPD Deputy Chief Gerald Woodyard said LAPD narcotics detectives working with the Long Beach-based Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officers recovered 82 firearms, including 42 ghost guns used by the Eastside Wilmas gang, along with 19 pounds of methamphetamine, 5½ pounds of cocaine, and 7 pounds of fentanyl. The task force has made 18 arrests, including seven last week in connection with various assault, firearms and narcotics charges.
“We all want the community to be safer,” Woodyard said, noting that 41 search warrants were executed during a three-year period of the operation dubbed Operation Ghost Chasers.
Jennifer Cicolani, acting special agent in charge of the ATF in Los Angeles, said the operation targeted Eastside Wilmas shot callers and their chain of weapons production in Long Beach, Wilmington, San Pedro and Arizona.
“As the investigation grew, the spider web grew and reached out to other violent gangs in the area and connected Eastside Wilmas to other gangs in the port area,” Cicolani said.
She warned that privately-made firearms — known as ghost guns, without serial numbers — are increasingly being found at crime scenes. Gangs now have guns made instead of buying them from straw buyers or stealing them, Cicolani said.
The ATF said it has recovered 45,240 such ghost weapons from crime scenes over the past five years, including 629 murders.
Councilman Tim McOsker, who represents District 15, said there was a December 2021 shooting in Wilmington, just outside Wilmington Park Elementary School, that killed a 12-year-old boy and injured a 9-year-old girl and a mother . .
“They were all where they should be, but they got caught in the crossfire of gang wars,” McOsker said. “So this isn’t just an academic exercise to get guns off the streets, this is real impact.”
Captain Brent McGuyre of the LAPD Harbor Division said many of the weapons recovered had modifications, including silencers.
“One of the Glock pistols has a modification to make it a fully automatic pistol,” he said.
The guns, some of which were fully automatic, ended up in the hands of the Eastside Wilmas gang, which has laid claim to the eastern part of the port city and surrounding neighborhoods for two generations, authorities said.