158 People Arrested at 'Massive Underground Party' Believed to Be a 'Superspreader Event' in California
More than 150 attendees at an illegal "superspreader event" in Palmdale, California, have been taken into police custody amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to authorities.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced on Tuesday that deputies arrested 158 people — of whom 116 were adults and 35 were juveniles — on Saturday night during a raid at a "massive underground party" held in a residential neighborhood.
"These types of parties typically involve drugs, alcohol, weapons, minors, and prostitution," the department said a news release. "Additionally, this criminal behavior is occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a press conference that the organizers — who reportedly promoted previous parties in Pomona and Ontario — broke into a vacant house and used a moving truck to bring in their equipment.
At the scene, authorities found six firearms and rescued an underage girl whom they believe was a victim of sex trafficking, according to Villanueva.
The arrests come just as California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order imposing stricter restrictions on travel and community gatherings in response to the surge of coronavirus cases within the state.
"This was a flagrant violation of the governor's health order," Villanueva said of the underground party. "Even without the health order, these actions were criminal in nature."
Villanueva also reiterated that his department will continue to enforce health orders and crack down on superspreader events that violate them.
"It is worth spending our resources to clamp down on because these superspreader events, if we get rid of them, we're gonna improve our ability to fight the pandemic on a whole scale," he said.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Lt. Paul Zarris of the sheriff's department told KTTV Fox 11 that many people at the party were not wearing masks.
According to the outlet, many attendees were cited and released for misdemeanors, though five were arrested on burglary charges and one was taken into custody on a gun charge.
"We just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen, especially in our area," Zarris said. "We’ll let them know that this is not acceptable."
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.