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COURSEY: Second-guessing a scary raid

Federal agents said they were in Petaluma on Thursday morning to serve a "high-risk" warrant.

It may have been the understatement of the week.

They brought an army into the neighborhood just off of McDowell Boulevard, and — not surprisingly — a war broke out. At least that's what it sounded like to neighbors awakened by gunfire, explosions and helicopters at 4 in the morning.

Federal Raid In Petaluma

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It's not nice to second-guess, particularly when three law enforcement officers sustained "non-life-threatening" injuries and details about the raid remain murky. But given what we do know, it's hard not to wonder:

Was this really the best way to arrest the guy?

An estimated 40 to 50 law enforcement officers from a variety of federal, state and local agencies gathered in the dark on McNeil Avenue, a blue-collar neighborhood sandwiched between Highway 101 and the Washington Square shopping center. They wore camouflage and flak jackets, helmets and face masks. They were heavily armed and accompanied by a huge black armored "rescue" vehicle brought in on the back of a tractor-trailer rig.

Colloquially, they were loaded for bear.

As I said, details of what happened are murky, and the feds have done little to clear them up. The special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations unit in San Francisco said, "These agents were wounded when they encountered a barrage of gunfire from an assault rifle while executing this search warrant."

He offered no information about who wielded that assault rifle, nor would he comment on any other nagging questions about the raid. All we really know is that three law officers got shot, one suspect got arrested and a big dog got killed.

The guy who got arrested in Petaluma is — apparently, but the feds wouldn't exactly confirm this, either — 20-year-old Victor Flores. Authorities said he is a gang member who was involved in a triple-homicide in South San Francisco in 2010. They said the pre-dawn Petaluma raid was one of 11 such actions that took place around the Bay Area on Thursday to arrest people involved in those killings.


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