Merced, CA

Gang member investigated for illegal fireworks arrested for possession of firearm and "gang enhancements"

Evie M.

I'm not sure why this story terrified me. Maybe because I lived in Merced/Atwater the majority of my life and I know there are children and families out there living close by people like this. On July 3, just before the holiday, a forty-three-year-old man named Robert Valdez was taken into custody for "weapons-related charges and gang enhancements" when police arrived to investigate an illegal fireworks situation.


Merced Police Department received a call on July 3rd leading them to a residence near "G" and La Purisima Street. The call reported " illegal fireworks and possible gunshots."

Officers found Robert Valdez at a house party, along with "ammunition casings, illegal fireworks, and a .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm hidden in a bush in the front yard." That is so scary! The firearm was also reported stolen, police discovered.

Mr. Valdez was booked at the Merced County jail for "being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm & ammunition, gang enhancements, and negligent discharge of a firearm."

A $1,000 fine was given to the owner as well for allowing illegal fireworks.

Even before the holiday, police were cracking down on illegal fireworks around Merced. A 20-year-old man named Oscar Benitez-Garcia was arrested in late June after police received a call about illegal fireworks being lit around Bellevue Rd. around midnight.

Police also confiscated "1,500 skyrockets, 400 mortars, and other illegal fireworks" around Merced. Wow.

Even if the holiday is over, it's important to think about how dangerous illegal fireworks are. Normal fireworks you can get at a stand might be a little lame, but illegal fireworks are not to be messed with. There are families living nearby. And as for the gang activity, I have faith in Merced police.

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