The man slept in a cluttered room inside his grandmother’s house in Santa Ana, an 8-inch, double-sided dagger jammed down the front pocket of his jeans.
Outside the brown, single-store house near Orange Avenue and East Anahurst Place, a neighborhood known for gang activity, eight Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies wearing bulletproof vests and other gear quietly took positions around the property.
Next door, a small dog yapped.
It was 7:18 a.m.
Two deputies rapped on the front door. After a minute or so, the sleeping man’s grandmother allowed them to enter.
Minutes later, two deputies rousted the man awake.
For the 35-year-old parolee with a thick rap sheet dating back to at least 2001, with offenses including corporal injury to a spouse, cruelty to a child and a previous instance of barricading himself when law enforcement paid him a visit, Wednesday was a rude awakening.
About 35 OCSD deputies — all members of the agency’s SWAT team — participated in the Sept. 20-21 sweep that targeted wanted offenders in Santa Ana with violations ranging from drug dealing to attempted murder.
By the end of Thursday, Sept. 21, a total of nine felony suspects had been arrested, and nearly 170 warrants cleared or brought up to date, by the OCSD.
The other participating agencies — the Santa Ana PD, U.S. Marshals Service, Orange County Probation and the State of California Parole Office — arrested a combined total of 13 felony suspects and cleared an additional 50 warrants.
“In addition (to the arrests),” the Santa Ana PD said in a news release, “valuable information and intelligence was obtained by officers to continue to pursue the arrest of those subjects who remain at large. There will be an ongoing and continued effort by the Santa Ana Police Department to locate and arrest these individuals.”
Sgt. Ken Olszewski led the OCSD’s 10-member Tactical Apprehension Team (TAT) on the sweep. TAT exclusively devotes itself to tracking down perps with outstanding felony arrest warrants. An additional 25 OCSD SWAT team members joined those 10 TAT members on the sweep.
“These multi-agency operations are an important step to safeguarding our communities,” Olszewski said.
The man awoken by deputies was arrested and transported to Orange County Jail in one of the TAT member’s unmarked vehicles. In addition to the 8-inch knife, deputies found in his bedroom four methamphetamine pipes, an X-Acto knife and another cutting tool.
The man, whose blue 1991 Ford pickup also was searched, had been in the wind since late this February for a violation that happened in February 2016.
Deputy Mike Perez, an Army veteran who spent over 1 ½ years in Iraq and who has served on the OCSD SWAT team for 13 of his 17 years with the agency, said TAT members usually participate in multi-agency sweeps once a year.
“This (Operation Clean Sweep) is one of the larger ones we’ve participated in recently,” said Perez, who contemplated becoming a firefighter before discovering his passion for putting bad people in jail.
Because the OCSD’s TAT team also is part of the U.S. Marshal’s task force team, TAT members can be sent anywhere in the country to hunt for offenders. Mostly, though, they operate in O.C. and surrounding counties.
Outstanding felony arrest warrants eventually will flush out of the criminal justice system if law enforcement agencies don’t engage in due diligence to keep the warrants active.
Hence the need for sweeps — or, in cop parlance, “knock and talks,” when law enforcement shows up unannounced at homes whose addresses are the last known ones linked to suspects.
In many cases, the person (or persons) who answers the door has no clue who the perp is — or claims to have no clue.
On the second stop made by an eight-member team led by Olszewski on Wednesday morning, a man answered a door at a condo. Deputies were looking for a female with an outstanding felony drug warrant.
The man claimed to be a visitor for the night and to not know the 32-year-old woman who has had an arrest warrant hanging over her head since late April.
Another person in the condo said her parents had taken her to rehab two days prior.
Deputies believed the woman may have been living in the garage, but after several minutes they moved on to the next address, saying they would return later to see if the woman had returned to the condo.
“It’s luck of the draw,” Perez said of finding suspects at the addresses to which they are connected. “This was a swing and a miss.”
Throughout the morning, as they checked on a half-dozen addresses, the deputies remained calm and professional when they made contact with residents.
“I might not like what (a suspect) has done, but it makes my job much easier to talk to them and their relatives like I would talk to any (average) person on the street, making them more likely to cooperate,” Perez said.
There remains a huge misperception in some Hispanic communities that such efforts as Operation Clean Sweep target illegal immigrants to get them deported, Perez said.
“That’s not the case at all,” he said. “It can be frustrating. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
Deputies next stopped at a mobile home park.
“Sheriff’s Department,” a deputy announced outside the partially open front door. “Anyone home?”
Another deputy repeated the question in Spanish.
After determining no one was inside the mobile home, the deputies moved on.
At one stop — at a gray, single-story home reputed to be the residence of a drug offender, where empty shell casings were found — deputies used a battering ram to break open a locked bedroom door.
No one was inside the room.
An aunt and grandmother of the suspect, who has a history of violent crime and a previous weapons conviction, had conflicting stories when he last was at the home.
Deputies then called in a K9 unit to search the attic.
Conan, a jet-black Belgian Malinois mix who weighs 95 pounds, was assisted by his handler, Deputy Ryan Buhr, onto a ladder.
“Please make yourself known if you’re in the attic,” Buhr said. “You will be bitten. This is your final warning.”
Conan searched the attic for several minutes before Buhr declared the attic was clear.
“It was worth a shot,” Buhr told his colleagues.