Two suspects have been apprehended in the murder of two members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club last August. The suspects have been identified as 22-year-old twin brothers Mando and Armando Lopez. The two men were apprehended separately by Las Cruces, New Mexico police and U.S. Marshall’s Deputies. They are being held in the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces on $2 million bail.
The two Mongols the twins are accused of murdering are Ruben Sanchez and Angel Rodriguez (pictured above.) Sanchez was 34 and Rodriguez was 30.
Sanchez and Rodriguez were shot about 1:50 a.m. on August 7 in an alley behind a bar called Club Azul in Los Banos, California. Police went to the bar in response to a complaint of a large fight at 1:46 a.m. Police said they heard “several shots” when they arrived at Club Azul and saw people running from the alley. Sanchez and Rodriguez were pronounced dead where they lay.
At the time of the murders Los Banos police said the shooting was “gang related. News reports identified the dead men as members of the “Mongols gang.”
Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee told Corey Pride of the Los Banos Enterprise yesterday that the murders had nothing to do with the dead men’s membership in the Mongols. Brizzee called it “an altercation between members of rival criminal street gangs and they (Sanchez and Rodriguez) got involved.”
El Paso, Texas television station KTSM reported Thursday that the Lopez twins are members of the “Norteno gang.” The Nortenos, Northeners or Northern Mexicans are a coalition of neighborhood cliques in California north of Bakersfield. Neither KTSM nor Los Banos police identified the cliques.
Operation Red Zone
The Lopez brothers are from Los Banos, a city with a population of about 36,000 in Merced County. Police have also named Joe Castillo and Francisco Esquivel as suspects in the Club Azul shooting. They are also both from Los Banos. Police describe them as “known gang members.”
June 7, two months before Sanchez and Rodriguez were killed, local police and California Department of Justice agents carried out “Operation Red Zone.” According to the press release for the “Operation”, which was datelined Los Banos:
“Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the arrests of 101 leaders and members of two transnational gangs operating violent criminal enterprises in the Central Valley cities of Madera, Los Banos, Livingston, Merced, Atwater and Dos Palos.
“‘As transnational gangs traffic crime into California, we must counter their ruthlessness with our resolve,’ said Attorney General Harris. ‘The arrest of dozens of transnational gang leaders and members frees California from a significant criminal threat.’
“The operation, code-named ‘Red Zone,’ was led by Attorney General Harris’ Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement office in Fresno. It is the latest in a series of actions the Attorney General has taken against transnational gangs.”
Thirty of the people arrested in the “Operation” were from Los Banos. Whatever the law enforcement stunt was supposed to accomplish, it did not make Los Banos safer or more peaceful.