A suspect in the shootings that have occurred in recent weeks was arrested at McKay Park last week. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

A Salem man arrested recently on weapons charges is a suspect connected to the spate of shootings that has plagued Salem in the past five weeks, according to court records.

Jesus Valentin Renteria-Arellano, 18, remains in the Marion County Jail following his arrest by Salem police on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

He was accused of unlawful possession of firearms and other crimes not related to the neighborhood shootings. But a sworn statement by a Salem police officer said that “Jesus Renteria-Arrellano is the suspect in multiple shootings in the city of Salem.” The statement didn’t elaborate and police and prosecutors declined to discuss the matter.

The arrest came as part of an unusual police sweep in northeast Salem last Thursday in response to the violent crimes in the area.

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Police made a show of force, deploying 41 officers from the Salem Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and the FBI from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. They targeted people they believed were involved in or had information about the shootings.

Lt. Treven Upkes of Salem police said the sweep was intended to send a message to criminals and the public.

“We wanted to be seen,” Upkes said. “We wanted to be seen by the public, we wanted to be seen by people committing crimes or contemplating committing crimes.” 

In early August the city had five shootings reported in one week.

Upkes said the city usually has five to seven homicides a year. This recent surge is the most significant increase in violent crime he can remember.

“Having three (homicides) in a month, that’s pretty extraordinary for Salem,” Upkes said.

Eight arrests were highlighted in a news release Upkes issued last Friday summarizing the police sweep.

“This week the Salem Police Department coordinated an effort to address the recent wave of violent crimes in the area,” the release read. “These efforts resulted in the arrest of eight adults and one juvenile, the seizure of three guns and multiple narcotics.”

Four people were booked and later released. Three, including Renteria-Arrellano, are being held on unusually high $500,000 bonds. The eighth has not been indicted on criminal charges, court records show.

The police action has followed the killing of a 16-year-old in Englewood Park, the murder of a woman at the Pine Street Pub, the murder of a 24-year-old in the 400 block of 22nd Street Northeast, the shooting of three people in what police described as a drive-by and other shootings in which there were no known victims.

As community outcry increased, Salem detectives three weeks ago conducted an increased patrol of Northgate, Englewood and McKay parks, patrolling on foot, in cars and conducting traffic stops, said Lt. Debbie Aguilar. Aguilar said the detectives haven’t gotten their data on the sweep to command staff, so she didn’t know how effective the operation was. She said there were numerous arrests, including for drug crimes, and one handgun was seized.

The larger operation last week resulted in arrests for parole violations, warrants and crimes detected during the extra patrols.

According to court records, around 3 p.m. last Thursday, police followed Renteria-Arrellano in a Nissan Maxima as it pulled into McKay Park, near Lancaster Drive and Silverton Road in northeast Salem.

As Renteria-Arrellano got out of the car, two loaded .38-caliber revolvers fell to the ground, according to court documents. One reportedly had the serial number filed off.

A detective arrested Renteria-Arrellano on two counts of unlawful firearm possession, obliteration of identification number on firearms, attempting to elude police and interfering with a peace officer. 

Three and a half hours later, two men got out of the same sedan and walked into a Roth’s Fresh Markets on Northeast Lancaster Avenue and put $14 worth of beer into a backpack, according to court records.

They walked to the registers and one of the men bought a bag of chips. The grocery store’s loss prevention officer waited until they left to confront them, court records said. 

When the security guard tried to stop one of them from leaving, the other man shoved him. The men hopped into the car, registered to Renteria-Arrellano, and drove off, according to court documents.

Gerardo Daniel Obregon-Longares, 18, of Newberg, was subsequently arrested in connection with the theft, and has been charged with second-degree robbery, a felony charge that can carry a sentence of more than five years. 

Upkes said the extra patrols covered a territory from the intersection of Broadway and Market streets northeast to Cordon Road. Officers patrolled parks while also knocking on specific doors looking for people with warrants for their arrest. 

One of those arrested was a victim in the city’s recent violence.

Jesse Jimenez was arrested on Aug. 20 for threatening to shoot his girlfriend, according to court records.

Two months earlier, Jimenez was stabbed near a large crowd during Cherryfest NW in Riverfront Park. He was treated and released, and refused to cooperate with police.

Jimenez “stated he did not want his name on a report as a victim and did not want to be known as a ‘snitch’,” according to a Salem police report.

Upkes declined to discuss Jimenez directly, but said officers will use an arrest to pressure a suspect to talk.

“If we have someone involved in these things, generally speaking, and we have leverage on them… we are going to use that,” he said. “We are going to use what we can to get you to cooperate.”

Jimenez and Obregon-Longares are also being held on $500,000 bail.

Upkes said police would assess the operation’s impact before deciding whether to do another one. Commanders will look at what arrests were made and what information was gleaned, and weigh that against the cost.

“It is obviously a big resource drain,” Upkes said.

“We are not going to stop until we can get people in custody involved in all these issues going on,” he said.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250 or [email protected] Reporter Aubrey Wieber can be reached at 503-575-1251 or [email protected]