Winters police call in backup during violent brawl

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A thrown rock triggered a large melee Wednesday evening in Winters, leading to a standoff, evacuations and ultimately the arrest of a suspected gang member who allegedly started the brawl, police said.

It all began shortly after 5 p.m., when police received several 911 calls reporting a large crowd, some armed with knives, in the 100 block of Grant Avenue, according to a Winters Police Department social media post.

“Upon arrival, officers encountered multiple subjects in the street in a verbal altercation. Some of the subjects immediately fled and others verbally and physically resisted officers who were trying to establish control of the scene and determine if anyone required medical attention,” the post said.

As officers detained several people to figure out whether they were involved in the scuffle, they learned that the fight began after one man, identified as validated Norteño gang member Dale Ritter, 19, allegedly threw a large rock at a passing vehicle, then brandished two knives and threatened to get a gun during the ensuing altercation.

Ritter, who according to police has “a criminal history involving violence and weapons” and is currently on probation, fled into a nearby apartment with several others when officers arrived. Attempts to make contact with them were unsuccessful, prompting police to request assistance from the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office and Gang Task Force.

“A perimeter was established, and neighboring apartments were evacuated,” police said. “Approximately an hour and a half after the incident began, Ritter voluntarily exited his apartment and was taken into custody without further incident or injury.”

Still believing other possibly armed people were inside the apartment, police made several orders to surrender over a public-address system and prepared to launch pepper spray into the apartment by breaching a rear window with beanbag rounds.

“After no further contact was established or movement noted from inside the apartment, it was decided to not introduce the pepper spray and officers entered the apartment. No additional subjects were located,” police said. A subsequent search of the apartment revealed multiple knives but no firearms.

Ritter, meanwhile, was booked into the Yolo County Jail on charges including assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a deadly weapon, criminal threats and violation of probation. The case has been forwarded to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether others will face charges as well.

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