Victims say the “rip crew” had police-style uniforms and weapons
NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - They posed as police to pull off frightening home invasions. That how a gang of thugs did their dangerous work, according to Nogales Police.
Now four of the men are in jail. Local, state and Federal law enforcement are looking for a fifth man, Gabriel Maldonado.
Nogales Police see the attacks as a dangerous new development in a peaceful city.
It was late afternoon in this Nogales neighborhood. “Alecia” heard a knock on the door. There's no wonder she didn't want to show her face or use her real name.
“All of a sudden they knocked down the door and they pointed a gun at my mother's head, and me at my stomach. Thanks God my kids weren't home. I had my 2 month old niece and my son in law in the living room."
“Alecia” and Nogales Police say the invaders wore SWAT-style police gear as they attacked Alecia's home.
Police in Tucson have seen that tactic before.
Nogales Police Chief Derek Arnson says he's encountered it working other places but it's a dangerous new development for Nogales.
"We know there's rip crews. We call them bajadores so yes, that does occur but we're not going to say that is something of an extreme issue in our community. It's not."
Often rip crews work for drug operations, stealing money or drugs from rival gangs but the Police Chief says there was no trace of drug activity in the house attacked.
"We hit that home with a dog and got a search warrant and did the things that were legally ours to do and our responsibilities and there were no indication that drugs been there."
Nogales Police, Tucson Police, Santa Cruz County Deputies, DPS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement teamed up to bring the men in.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada says that co-operation shut down a group that brought a level of violence rarely seen there.
"This really was alarming. The way it was done with all that firepower. It was very very aggressive by these individuals--the tactics they used, the equipment they used, the insignia they were using is something we had not seen before."
Nogales Police say they pushed hard to capture the home invasion suspects because the attacks truly unnerved the community. DPS’ new Border Strike Force was involved in the case. The force commander says it assisted with detectives and a tactical team that made one of the arrests.