This is an updated version of a story posted earlier Friday afternoon.
BARSTOW - For several days, members of a local gang allegedly spread fear throughout a small neighborhood off of Old State Highway 58 in Barstow. They threatened neighbors with guns, smashed windows of houses and even killed one neighbor's cat and two kittens, wielding the cat's carcasses like trophies for the neighborhood to see.

Officers from the Barstow sheriff's station put a stop to Jaime Lopez and Carlos Diego Esquivel's suspected reign of terror when they were arrested on Thursday morning. A coordinated effort between Sgt. Eric Mello, Det. Anthony Padfield and Deputy Sheldon Himes brought Lopez, 27, and Esquivel, 32, both from Barstow, into custody for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism on Thursday. Lopez was also arrested for suspicion of cruelty to animals based on witnesses' accounts of him killing cats in the neighborhood.

The two were arrested after the sheriff's station responded to a burglary in progress on the 28000 block of Old Highway 58. When they arrived, they saw Lopez and Esquivel fleeing the scene. Padfield and Himes chased the vehicle until they crashed at which time they were arrested. The officers returned to the scene of the attempted burglary to do further investigation.

"It just kind of spider-webbed out," Mello said. "I come to find out he had been terrorizing the neighborhood during the week. They feared him and that's why they didn't call us, didn't talk to us."

Padfield and Mello conducted several interviews with witnesses and victims of the two's alleged crimes. One woman did not return Lopez's car in a timely fashion. Lopez took it out on her cats.

"He had made some threats about her cats and felt he had to follow through," Mello said.
Three cats were killed, and when the woman refused a different kitten offered as an apology from Lopez the following day, Lopez snapped the kitten's neck in front of the woman, Mello said.

Padfield expects additional charges to be added against Lopez and Esquivel, including gang enhancement charges. He also said the sheriff's station will work with the Barstow Police Department to see if Lopez and Esquivel are suspects or connected to other gang-related incidents inside the city.

Anyone with information about Lopez and Esquivel can called the sheriff's station at 256-4838. To remain anonymous, call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME.

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4123 or aaron_aupperlee@link.freedom.com