Four accused gang members could face the death penalty, more than a dozen others could spend decades in prison after a series of indictments targeting two South San Francisco Street gangs. Three federal agents suffered non-life threatening injuries after they were shot while trying to serve an arrest warrant in Petaluma in connection with the case, authorities say. "This indictment stems from an 18 month investigation into two South San Francisco street gangs, the 500 Block Gang and the C-Street Gang whose members have been operating together as a single racketeering enterprise," United States Attorney Melinda Haag said during a South San Francisco news conference Thursday afternoon. "The 500 Block/C-Street gang members identify as Nortenos and are at war with Sureno gangs as well as with rival Nortenos. Among the violence the gang members inflicted on their communities were four attempted murders in Daly City on December 18, 2010, and three murders and four attempted murders in South San Francisco on December 22nd, 2010." After those shootings during the 2010 holiday season, police in South San Francisco and Daly City along with sheriff's deputies in San Mateo County and the federal Department of Homeland Security put together a task for aimed at ending gang violence in the northern part of the county. "Three young men were shot and killed and three young men wounded not far from here on December 22nd, 2010 during a senseless shooting," Haag added. "The violence must stop. The indictment unsealed today is a clear message to gang members that they will be brought to justice for the pain and sorrow they inflict on their community. For the victims and their families there is nothing we can do to bring their loved ones back but I hope that these charges will start to bring them some closure." Four defendants, Joseph Ortiz, Victor Flores, Justin Whipple, and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez face the death penalty if convicted in federal court. Michael Ortiz Jr., Michael Ortiz Sr., Armando Acosta, Giovanni Rimando Ascencio, Raymond Hembry, James Hembry, Richard Martinez, Rodrigo Aguayo, Gregorio Guzman, Mario Bergren, Andrew Bryant, and Peter Davis could receive life prison sentences while Louis Rodriguez is eligible for a 60 year prison term and Tanya Rodriguez and Betty Ortiz could get 40 years in prison each. Haag says authorities managed to arrest everyone on their target list Thursday. Many of the defendants are due in court as early as Friday to enter pleas. South San Francisco police say in the 18 months since the shooting they've deployed more anti-gang units on the streets of their community and that instances of gang violence have reduced dramatically.
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