EL CAJON, Calif. (CNS) - Three gang members are due in court Wednesday in connection with the fatal shooting a 59-year-old security guard outside a Spring Valley marijuana dispensary.
The shooting of Kenneth Love II allegedly was tied to a broader scheme to extort illegal dispensaries for money. If the extortion money was not paid, the defendants used threats and violence to intimidate ownership, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
The crime spree is responsible for other Spring Valley-area shootings in July 2019 and November 2019, according to prosecutors. Two of the defendants are gang members who reside in the Los Angeles area and the third is a San Diego man associated with a local gang, Stephan said.
After an investigation by San Diego County Sheriff's Department homicide detectives and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, Daveon Dajuan Hicks Sr., 30, Curry James Williams Jr., 29, and Jamal Johnson, 41, were arrested on suspicion of murder, Stephan said.
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Hicks, Williams and Johnson were also charged with conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings, Stephan said.
Adrian Kasey Batten, 36, was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion and other offenses related to the Spring Valley shootings. Jester Ramos, 28, has been charged with attempted robbery and shooting at an occupied building, Stephan said.
All have pleaded not guilty and are due at the East County Courthouse Wednesday for a readiness hearing.
Hicks and Williams were arrested at their homes in Compton on July 1 after two search warrants were served in Compton and one each in Hawthorne, Bellflower and Long Beach, Stephan said.
Five firearms were recovered during the execution of the search warrants, Stephan said.
Johnson and Batten were arrested July 7 by San Diego County sheriff's detectives after they landed at Los Angeles International Airport.
Ramos was arrested July 7 after a search warrant was served at his residence in San Diego, Stephan said.
The arrests were made possible with continuing assistance of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Torrance and Hawthorne police departments, Stephan said.
"Last week's arrests bring a conclusion to this chapter of an investigation by a group of dedicated law enforcement professionals committed to making the streets of San Diego safer for the community to live and work," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.
"This case involved a wide array of investigative techniques varying in their complexity, worked jointly with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, all with one goal in mind -- to bring justice to Mr. Love and his family."
Love was found mortally wounded in front of the unlicensed cannabis shop in the 8700 block of Troy Street, just east of state Route 125, shortly after 11 p.m. on June 2, 2020, according to sheriff's officials.
"This case demonstrates how violent gang crime knows no borders and criminals will exploit any opportunity, such as marijuana dispensaries operating illegally, to make money," Stephan said.
"Law enforcement never gave up on finding the murderers and our team will continue to seek justice for Mr. Love's family and friends through this prosecution. Extraordinary cooperation among our investigative partners from several local, county and national agencies led to these arrests."