Ca. authorities raid underground party; arrest 158 suspects, rescue sex trafficking survivor
PALMDALE, California - A massive underground party attended by hordes of juveniles was raided by members of the Los Angeles County's Sheriff's office in an event that led to 158 arrests and the rescue of a sex trafficking survivor who was discovered at the party.
According to CNN, the underground party took place on Saturday (Dec. 5) in Palmdale, a city in northeast Los Angeles party and was targeted by authorities due to its likelihood of becoming a coronavirus super spreader event.
The party unfolded in a vacant house that the young event organizers had broken into, and local Sheriff Alex Villanueva called their actions "a flagrant violation of the governor's health order."
But when deputies broke up the Saturday night gathering, they realized even more than the spread of COVID was at stake as they discovered a scene filled with guns, drugs, and the presence of a 17-year-old girl who'd been sexually exploited for commercial purposes.
According to CNN, officers took six firearms from the scene and rescued the 17-year-old.
"Had we done the normal approach, break up the party before, the same victim would have been taken to the next location, so this actually rescued her from that," Villanueva said at a news conference Tuesday. "She would have been passed down to the next party."
Officers arrested 120 adults and 38 juveniles, including the "entire organizing network," Villanueva said and said the event's "elusive" organizers broke into the home and used a rental truck to move in their party equipment.
"This is how brazen this operation was," Villanueva added.
Were the party held outside of a pandemic, its illegal nature would have likely resulted in a raid, but at this time, any large gathering can "become a deadly source of contagion and a super spreader event," the sheriff said.
"The outdoor temperature was 26 degrees. That event would have had 500 people had we not broken it up," the sheriff said. Even without the health order, the actions of the participants were criminal in nature, he said.
CNN reports that a record 10,500 patients are hospitalized in the state, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly. The number of new infections is also soaring, with daily case counts doubling in the past two weeks.
"Moving forward, we will additionally be conducting targeted enforcement on super-spreader events," the sheriff tweeted Thursday.