Santa Rosa man, girlfriend arrested in gang-related fights

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A Santa Rosa gang member and his girlfriend were arrested Thursday following a weeks-long investigation into two separate fights, with police finding an assault weapon outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, among other illegal items, at his home.

Israel Birkey-Perez, 20, was taken into custody near Stony Point Road and Campbell Drive after officers pulled him over for a minor traffic violation at about 9:45 a.m.

Gang detectives obtained a search warrant for his southwest Santa Rosa home, located on Citrine Way, where they found the assault weapon and magazine, along with a shotgun, illegal narcotic pills and evidence related to the two Santa Rosa fights.

Birkey-Perez was previously sentenced to a state juvenile prison for intimidating a witness in a gang-related case. The sentence bars him from owning guns. Birkey-Perez was additionally ordered to register as a gang member, said Santa Rosa police Sgt. Tommy Isachsen, who leads the department’s gang unit. He described the group as a Hispanic criminal street gang but declined to specify.

“We don’t want to give them notoriety,” Isachsen said.

Birkey-Perez and his girlfriend, identified as Helena Angelina Rodriguez, 18, piqued the interest of the department’s gang unit after officers received two reports of physical fights in which the suspects targeted individuals who they believed were members of a rival gang, police said.

“They knew who they were and they were targeted,” Isachsen said of the suspects. He added the department doesn’t necessarily suspect the victims are gang members.

The first incident was reported to police on Sept. 5 at the parking lot of a Jack in the Box on Steele Lane. It involved three Hispanic males and a female who fought a 17-year-old boy. Witness interviews and other evidence collected by detectives led officers to suspect Birkey-Perez and Rodriguez were involved in the fight, Isachsen said. Officers are working to identify the other suspects.

The pair also became suspects in a second fight involving three Montgomery High School students on Sept. 15. Two of the victims were boys ages 14 and 15, and the third was a 14-year-old girl. Police said the fight happened near the Montgomery High School campus, on Patio Court, sometime after school was let out.

“It was another assault,” Isachsen said. “A gang-related challenge and then a fight.”

Rodriguez’s Sonoma Avenue home was searched after Birkey-Perez’s arrest Thursday, and she was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County jail on suspicion of assault and participating in a gang. Detectives found gang paraphernalia in her home but Isachsen declined to elaborate what those items were.

Birkey-Perez was booked for similar charges but faced additional firearm and narcotics charges. Both will appear at the Sonoma County Superior Court on Oct. 1.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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