The Menlo Park Police Department said it seized 17 illegal firearms and gang-related paraphernalia on Monday from a Menlo Park resident allegedly connected to a local street gang who was previously arrested during a traffic stop incident on March 20.
The suspect, 42-year-old Christopher Echols, was arrested on suspicion of firearms and gang-related charges as well as committing a felony while out on bail after police served a search warrant at Echols' home in the Belle Haven neighborhood on Monday, a press release stated.
Echols was previously arrested on March 20, after he was stopped by plainclothes officers on patrol in an unmarked vehicle for speeding through Willow Road and Newbridge Street, an area that frequently receives speeding complaints from the community, according to police. Echols was driving 50 mph in a residential zone.
During the stop, Echols called 911, reaching the San Mateo County communications agency. The report stated that Echols was attempting to target the plainclothes officers and saying that they were in danger of being shot. Nicole Acker, public information officer for the police department, said police cannot further interpret what Echols may have meant by the statement.
When Echols was removed from the vehicle, officers found that he had a loaded 9 mm handgun and was wearing military-style camouflage clothing that's commonly associated with a local criminal street gang known as the Taliban.
The Taliban gang is a group that emerged out of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park around 2002, according to an SFGate report, in which members have been connected to a range of felonies including murder, assaults, robbery and extortion.
In 2009, an 18-month investigation led to a large-scale arrest of 42 people in connection to the gang. The former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis said at the time that the operation "effectively dismantled" the Taliban, although it would not be the last incident where individuals connected to the gang were arrested.
"Menlo Park Police are taking a proactive stance to prevent this type of activity from gaining hold in this community again," the news release stated.
Echols was arrested March 20 on suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm, resisting officers in an aggravated manner, false report of an emergency and additional charges for criminal street gang behavior and possession of a firearm by a gang member. He was booked into San Mateo County Jail and posted bail the same day.
The police department obtained a search warrant for Echols' home on March 29.
"The search warrant was for weapons and also for any evidence indicating gang activity," Police Chief David Norris said in a Facebook video publicizing Echols' arrest.
Officers found assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, police-style communication devices and "a large amount of clothing and other evidence of street-gang participation," the report said.
Echols was arrested this time on suspicion of multiple counts of illegal possession of assault weapons, multiple counts of possession of high capacity ammunition magazines, possession of a short-barreled rifle, participation in a criminal street gang and commission of a felony while out on bail.
More charges are possible, the police said. Acker said a case involving the arrest made through the search warrant is being written up to send to the district attorney's office.
During the period of Echols' first and second arrest, Menlo Park Patrol officers also took six firearms off the street through separate traffic enforcement stops. Several of the incidents also involved drivers fleeing from the police. Acker could not specify the number of incidents.
"In nearly all of these cases, either drugs, stolen property, evidence of property crimes, gang participation, or a combination of these were also present," police said. "This reinforces a concern that there are a significant number of firearms being carried by non law-abiding suspects of crime, without regard for the safety of our innocent community members."