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[whitespace] Undercover operation snags 17 youths in Wildwood Park

Saratoga--Eight Santa Clara County Sheriff's officers went undercover at Wildwood Park on Sept. 29 and 30, and arrested 17 people--mostly minors--for violations ranging from possession of alcohol and tobacco to urinating in public. The sheriff's office will continue to hold undercover operations until people get the message that the park is not to be used for these purposes, according to the Sheriff's public information officer, John Hirokawa

The arrests occurred between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. All those arrested were cited and given court dates, and no one stayed in jail overnight, Hirokawa said.

Wildwood Park is a public park, on Fourth Street, which closes one half-hour after sunset. The officers, some in plain clothes and some in uniform, used night vision goggles throughout the two nights, Hirokawa said.

In going undercover and making the arrests, the sheriffs were partly responding to a recent incident at the park.

On Sept. 19, around 11:30 p.m., after receiving a call about a suspicious person who was supposedly waving a pistol around and threatening to shoot people, a sheriff's deputy shot Shane Leyden, 23, of San Jose in the hand. The bullet exited Leyden's hand and grazed Leyden's chest. The deputy, who shot, said he ordered Leyden to put the weapon down but, instead, Leyden raised the gun that turned out to be a fake.

Leyden, who was treated and released from the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center that night, was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on two felony charges: felony drawing and exhibiting a firearm at a peace officer; and for drawing and exhibiting a firearm with the intent of resisting or preventing of arrest by a peace officer.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

The toxicology report to determine whether Leyden was under the influence of anything was still unavailable at press time, but the four deputies, who were at the park that night, think he might have been.

The sheriffs also were responding to neighbors' complaints about people hanging out in the park after hours, and to the city's request for the sheriffs to increase their patrolling of the park on weekends, Hirokawa said.

"We felt that the park needed attention," Hirokawa said. "We stepped up the effort."

According to a memo sent from the city's Parks Supervisor Dave Mooney to the city's Public Works Director John Cherbone, there were people in the park who could have been hurt the night of the shooting, even though the park was closed, and demonstrating the need for more of a police presence at the park.

According to Cary Bloomquist, the city staff liaison to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, the city will also take steps to remedy the unsafe situation at Wildwood Park by increasing the lighting, clearing out underbrush and repairing breaks in the fencing.
Kara Chalmers

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