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Riverside County gang murder investigation snares 17 people, 55 firearms – Press Enterprise


A 16-months-long investigation into a fatal shooting in Riverside culminated Thursday, May 26, with the announcement that 17 people had been arrested, including a former Riverside high school basketball star, and 55 weapons had been seized, including a semi-automatic shotgun decorated with stars and stripes.

Operation Walk in the Park, a joint effort of the Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and state Attorney General’s Office, confiscated six ghost guns — firearms with no serial numbers — and three assault rifles among the 55 firearms, two pounds of fentanyl, two pounds of cocaine, two pounds of heroin, a half-pound of methamphetamine, 200 Ecstasy pills and $65,952 in cash. A man who allegedly had manufactured the ghost guns with a 3D printer was among those arrested.

Two gang-related homicides in Riverside and Moreno Valley were solved, authorities said: the killing of 32-year-old Cedric Dempsey, a father of nine, who was found with a gunshot wound to his head in Bordwell Park in Riverside in December 2020; and the retaliation slaying of Kevin Henderson, 43, of Moreno Valley, who was a victim of mistaken identity and was shot to death on his porch in June 2020, three days after the birth of a child.

“We’re going to continue to go after street gangs and not let them terrorize our community,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said at a news conference. “We’ve taken a lot of guns off the street, we’ve taken a lot of narcotics off the street, and every little bit helps.”

Riverside police, after seizing about 600 illegal firearms in 2020, confiscated about 900 in 2021 and will likely surpass that figure this year, Gonzalez said.

The investigation began with the probe into Dempsey’s death. Leads led to the identification of Arthur Lawrence Akins III of Riverside and Darnell Frederick Tate, 32, of Moreno Valley, as suspects in both homicides. Both have been charged with murder with a special-circumstances allegation of being a gang member. Akins is due to be arraigned on Friday; Tate has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

That investigation snowballed into more leads about more people, including John Wrinkle, 37, a resident of Riverside’s Canyon Crest neighborhood who police said made the ghost guns.

The Attorney General’s Special Operations Unit assisted in the investigation.

“This is a public safety success story,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said at the news conference. “I vow that we will keep it up.”

On Wednesday, 20 search warrants and four arrest warrants were served in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.

Among those handcuffed was Edward Gray Jr., who was arrested on suspicion of three felony narcotics violations and on suspicion of possession of an assault weapon, also a felony. Gray, 46, played basketball at John W. North High in Riverside. He played in college at Tennessee, the College of Southern Idaho and at Cal, where he was the Pac-10 player of the year in 1997. Gray was a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks but played just 60 NBA games, averaging 6.2 points, before his career ended with an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence and drug possession in 1999.



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