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|02-27-03: Grand Lake area officers converge on three
|By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
Thirteen law enforcement officers gathered in Mercer County Sheriff
Jeff Grey's office Wednesday afternoon to discuss strategy in preparation for the
continuing assault on drug trafficking, some of which would take place that day.
Uniformed deputies, plainclothes representatives of the Grand Lake Task
Force, the jail administrator and the 911 coordinator listened intently as Grey outlined
plans that had been in the works since a grand jury handed down secret indictments Feb.
Visits to three sites - one in Celina, one in Hopewell Township and the
other just over the Van Wert County line - would result in four new dinner guests at the
Mercer County Jail if everything went off without a hitch.
The 2 p.m. briefing did have some lighter moments, breaking the
otherwise serious tone.
"He's not going to be a happy camper" came a comment from one
of the undercover detectives seated on the carpeted floor. The warning drew smiles.
Another Task Force member offered first-hand information regarding dogs
at one residence. "They're pretty friendly. You don't have to worry about being torn
limb from limb."
The people brought in would be placed in individual cells, preventing
unwanted contact with each other or the 13 current inmates until completion of routine
The sheriff handed out prepared packets, including arrest warrants and
indictments bearing names, ages, addresses and the alleged charges. Accompanying sheets
provided photographs of the suspects, a description of the vehicles they commonly drive
and other pertinent information including the possible presence of children at the
"Be careful," Grey warned as each team headed downstairs to waiting
cruisers and unmarked cars.
At 2:45 p.m., Mercer County Central Dispatch proclaimed a Signal 99 - a call
denoting emergency radio traffic only - until further notice. Officers involved in the
execution of arrest warrants would not be talking on the main frequency that can be picked
up by police scanners.
No sound came from a pair of portable radios on the sheriff's
desk - his link with the men and women in the field. Then came a crackle followed by a
male voice calmly noting the first team had arrived at the Logan Street location. An
ominous silence followed.
"This is where I get nervous and a pit forms in my stomach,"
Grey said leaning forward in his chair. "Officers are on the scene and you don't know
what is about to unfold. We have to play by the rules, but the guys we're arresting don't
have to play by the rules."
He relaxed perceptively minutes later when the same voice responded he
was returning with a male prisoner. The cruiser pulled into the driveway, waited briefly
as the sallyport door opened and then disappeared inside. The handcuffed prisoner was led
into the jail's booking area for processing.
Two teams, including a pair of female deputies, left for Carmel Church
Road and the home of a husband and wife. The sheriff waited for the crackle of radio
transmissions to shatter the stillness.
Minutes seemed like hours before deputies reported they were
approaching the scene. The cars had "hung back" as a school bus dropped off two
of the couple's three children.
Finally, the words the sheriff wanted to hear came - both female
deputies were returning to the jail with their female prisoner.
Grey let out a pent-up sigh before equating the brief message to a sign
that everything had gone well. Two male deputies remained at the scene with the husband,
who had given permission for a search of the premises.
Additionally, a Children's Services representative was there to assess
the situation involving the children, all under the age of 16. It was agreed they would
stay with a neighbor for the time being.
The only hitch in the well-orchestrated plan came at a Meiers Road
address in Van Wert County. The suspect was not home; the baby-sitter said he was working
at an egg-processing plant in Fort Recovery.
Cruisers and an unmarked Task Force vehicle headed in that direction,
with Grey calling Fort Recovery Police Chief Maggie Hartings to warn her "the guys
are coming your way."
Some of the delegation entered the business office in front while
others watched a side door to thwart any hasty retreat.
"We missed him by 15 minutes," came the radio message. The
cars turned around and headed back to Van Wert County.
Grey reached for the telephone and alerted authorities in that
jurisdiction. He requested that a Van Wert cruiser also respond.
"Our guys are on the way," he said hunched over the phone.
"I don't want him (the suspect) to come home and leave before we get there."
Confirmation of an arrest came around 4:30, with the Signal 99 lifted
"We're four for four," the sheriff pointed out on a jubilant
note. "We scored 100 percent and everybody is returning safe and sound."
Grey hopes the latest arrests put folks involved in illegal drug
activity on notice.
"We have a drug problem here in Mercer County and we're not
talking about beer and joints. We're talking about serious drugs and serious drug
That activity continues despite a series of raids in January 2002,
which netted 19 arrests and was described as the largest methamphetamine bust in the
The January bust, which involved nearly 70 law enforcement officers
representing numerous agencies, was too big to be coordinated from the small second-floor
sheriff's office. That critical briefing was moved across the street to the Mercer County
Courthouse auditorium. The plan was charted on a chalkboard, much like a coach outlines
key plays to his or her team. Nearly two years of investigation and undercover drug buys
paved the way for a night local drug dealers will long remember.
"Dealers are still out there selling to our people," Grey
said. "If you were involved in drugs over the past two years, can you be sure you
were selling dope to a friend or somebody on my payroll? Your time is coming."
He likened the raids in January 2002 to "a real big splash,"
adding picking up a few drug offenders here and there doesn't make those involved in
illegal activity sit up and take notice.
"We haven't slowed down," said a local detective assigned to
the Task Force. Agreeing to speak with The Daily Standard on the condition of anonymity,
he added, "we are continually pursuing people involved in drug activity."
There has been a marked decrease in the amount of methamphetamine
coming into the area since that memorable night more than a year ago.
"We've curtailed the meth problem for the time being by putting a
crimp in the supply line," he said. "However, drug dealing doesn't stop. We put
away some guys and others are waiting to take their place. It's no secret that drug
dealing is a lucrative business."
He likens drug traffickers to businessmen who handle multiple products.
If one product becomes more difficult to acquire, they simply switch to something else.
Supply and demand is what the market is all about.
Locally, authorities continue to see a lot of cocaine, marijuana and
prescription medication like the popular painkiller OxyContin. Crack cocaine, Ecstacy and
LSD also are available. Young people frequently turn to more common "sniffable"
things like gasoline, glue and over-the-counter inhalants.
"We even have to watch helium-filled balloons at festivals,"
Grey said. "Kids get a quick but temporary high from helium. It noticeably alters
their voices, but few realize complications can be fatal."
The detective grudgingly admits dealers are well versed in the matter
of prescription drugs.
"You almost have to be a pharmacist to know what you're up against
in the field or you need a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference close at hand," he
Grey points to the latest arrests as a sign of what can be accomplished
when various agencies, offices and jurisdictions work together toward a common goal -
keeping big suppliers out of the area and local dealers continually looking over their
shoulder. The Wednesday afternoon arrests are not the first and they certainly are not the
Four area residents face drug charges
By MARGIE WUEBKER
The Daily Standard
Four people, including a husband and wife, were arrested Wednesday
afternoon through a joint effort of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and the Grand Lake
Taken into custody without incident at their residences were:
- Neal S. Rodriguez, 26, 405 W. Logan St., Celina, one count possession
of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony.
The charge stems from a search warrant executed Jan. 31, 2002, in the
wake of a series of drug raids that netted 19 arrests. He allegedly obtained, possessed or
used the controlled substance in an amount of 5 grams or less.
- James Thaxton, 45, 3679 Carmel Church Road, Celina, three counts
trafficking in drugs, all fourth-degree felonies, and two additional counts of
trafficking, both fifth-degree felonies. Two of the charges relate to offenses that
occurred in the presence of a juvenile.
The alleged incidents occurred on or about June 7, June 18, July 24,
July 26 and Aug. 2, involving the sale or offered sale of marijuana, Hydrocodone and
Propoxyphene. The latter two drugs are often prescribed for the management of mild to
- Vicky J. Thaxton, 36, 3679 Carmel Church Road, Celina, one count
trafficking in drugs, a third-degree felony.
The charge stems from a July 17 incident in which she allegedly sold or
offered to sell Hydrocodone in an amount greater than one but less than five times bulk
(in this case 30 tablets). The transaction reportedly occurred in the presence of a
- David R. Schaadt, 26, 18757 Meiers Road, Willshire, one count
trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony.
The charge alleges on or about Feb. 14, 2002, he did knowingly sell or
offer to sell cocaine in an amount of 5 grams or less in the vicinity of a juvenile.
All four remain incarcerated at the Mercer County Jail pending initial
appearances in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. Their visit to the courtroom of Judge
Jeffrey Ingraham is expected to take place today.
Sheriff Jeff Grey said there is often a time lapse before drug cases go
before the grand jury. Any suspicious tablets and powders seized during the execution of a
search warrant go to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation & Identification for
analysis. The laboratories there are busy since they serve law enforcement agencies
throughout the state.
Protecting confidential informants is another consideration. This can
be accomplished by putting some time between drug buys and eventual indictments. Lastly,
loose ends in an investigation must be tied up into a neat package. In many cases this can
and does lead to additional arrests.
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