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'High-ranking' gang member arrested in Watsonville

Modified: Thursday, May 26th, 2011


Police arrest Albert Martinez Tuesday morning on Sunny Hills Drive at Holly Drive. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula)


A high-ranking member of the Nuestra Familia prison gang was arrested Tuesday morning after he was stopped by police in a residential neighborhood in Watsonville.

Albert Martinez, 36, is being charged with being a felon in possession of a loaded firearm, according to Watsonville police Sgt. Eric Montalbo. Martinez was also on parole from a prior conviction for methamphetamine sales, he said.

According to Montalbo, an officer attempted to stop a red 2008 Cadillac STS that was being driven by Salina Tavera, 19, about 10:30 a.m. at Main Street and Holm Road after spotting Martinez, who was wanted for failing to report to his parole agent, sitting in the back seat.

Instead of stopping for the officer, Tavera fled at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, leading police north on Holm Road to Airport Road and onto Holly Drive before stopping at the corner of Sunny Hills Drive.

Dozens of neighbors watched from their yards as Martinez was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.

Officers from various agencies, including the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, searched the vehicle and reportedly found a loaded .357-caliber revolver, along with piles of clothes, several cell phones and children’s toys.

The Nuestra Familia prison gang, which operates primarily out of Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, is affiliated with the Norteño criminal street gang, which has a large population in Watsonville.

According to Watsonville police Detective Morgan Chappell, Martinez is in the “upper echelon” of the Norteño world. He was recently released on parole from Pelican Bay, where the “worst of the worst” are kept, Chappell said.

“These are the guys who hand down all the orders to the Norteño foot soldiers on the street,” he said.

The arrest was the result of a surveillance operation by the Watsonville Police Department Gang Unit, the Santa Cruz County Anti-Crime Team and the county Gang Task Force.



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