Probe into bar melee leads police to Leveroni Road

Authorities say an investigation into last month’s gang-related assault outside Steiner’s saloon led to a Thursday-morning raid on a property on Leveroni Road near Broadway – where police found in excess of 400 marijuana plants.

Police served a search warrant in the 100 block of Leveroni Road under the direction of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Team, or MAGNET, according to Sonoma police Sgt. Spencer Crum. He said that while the marijuana plants were found there, the subject of the warrant, 22-year-old Ramon Manzo, was not at home. Police took Manzo into custody later that day.

At around 10 a.m. Thursday, three men were seen handcuffed outside the Leveroni property’s high walls, standing next to family members and with sheriff’s deputies nearby. (Those men were not under arrest, but were being temporarily restrained while the search warrant was being exercised.) Inside, MAGNET personnel searched the property as part of their investigation.

At the same time, another warrant was being served in the 17100 block of Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs in connection with the case, where authorities arrested 20-year-old Javier Chavez.

Crum said both police actions were connected to a violent assault by six gang members on March 23 outside Steiner’s, during which one man was badly beaten and another was chased by a knife-wielding gang member.

That incident began at around 1:30 a.m. when a 27-year-old Boyes Hot Springs man was hit over the head with a bottle outside the saloon by another man, identified later as 21-year-old Juan Chavarria. The victim fell to the ground and three to four men then began kicking him in the head, police reported at the time.

Four police officers responded to the event, and found the victim lying on the ground in a pool of blood. A crowd estimated at close to 150 people was present when the assault took place, and some pointed out the assailants as they attempted to escape through the Plaza.

One of the officers spotted two men in black sweatshirts walking away across the Plaza and ordered them to stop and lie down; one did, but the other, whom the officer recognized as Chavarria, kept walking.

Chavarria was eventually handcuffed and placed in a police car while officers dealt with another man, 25-year-old Gustavo Mateo, who cursed police while failing to comply with their orders. He was eventually handcuffed and charged with obstructing/resisting arrest and being drunk in public.

A third man, 22-year-old Erik Garcia, also resisted arrest and had to be tackled and taken to the ground, police said. Garcia was charged with obstructing/resisting arrest and a probation violation.

A witness then told police that a fourth man, identified as David Garcia, 21, of Sonoma, the brother of Erik Garcia, had chased him down the street swinging a knife at him. David Garcia escaped that night, but was later taken into custody as well and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The assault victim was taken to Sonoma Valley Hospital with five large lacerations in his head that Sonoma police said required about 50 stitches. “The victim was not a gang member and the reason for the attack is unknown,” police said in a statement.

Police later identified two more suspects in the March incident, and arrest warrants for felony assault with a deadly weapon were issued, leading to Thursday’s raids.

Chavez was arrested for his warrant. Manzo, who was out on bail from an unrelated case in Napa County, was arrested for his warrant in this case, and on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and committing a felony while out on bail.

Police said the pot find was “in excess of 400 marijuana plants in various sizes on the property, both indoors and outdoors.”

Police said all of the suspects in this case are members of the norteño criminal street gang and at least some have prior gang-related felonies.

“These guys are very well known to us,” Crum said.