The local criminal element in Lowndes County was hit hard this week after law enforcement agencies conducted a major drug sting last Thursday, followed by several major arrests in a rash of recent burglaries.
“Operation Full Throttle” went into action early last Thursday morning as a team of agents scoured the area arresting the first group of suspects tied to a major regional cocaine distribution gang. The joint operation was a partnership of the Lowndes County Sheriffs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the US Marshals and Lowndes County Naroctics Unit.
Over 40 agents from the various agencies gathered just before sunrise Thursday and then broke into multiple teams, with groups arresting suspects in Aberdeen, Columbus, Brooksville and West Alabama. Although the names of those arrested have yet to be released, sources close to the investigation told The Packet that 11 of the 13 suspects targeted in the first phase of the operation were in police custody.
“This is the culmination of over a year’s worth of investigation and surveillance by all parties involved, we know we have put a big dent in the drug trafficking in the Lowndes County Area,” Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge said.
Arledge went on to say that the ring was responsible for distributing over 10 kilos of cocaine a month into Columbus and Lowndes County. The investigation has led to the seizure of more than 20 vehicles and over $180,000 in drug money.
Narcotics Commander Bobby Grimes said the investigation led to 28 federal indictments over and above the 13 suspects sought Thursday. Grimes said well over 70 people are expected to be tied to the drug ring. All eleven suspects were expected to be transported to Aberdeen by US Marshals where they will arraigned in Federal Court.
The Silver Fox Gets Caught
Shortly after 1 p.m. the same afternoon, an eagle-eyed veteran deputy headed home on break noticed two young men snooping around the carport of a home on Jolly Ridge Circle off of Ridge Road. As the two men entered a silver Honda Civic, Lowndes County Deputy Greg Wright recognized the license plate of the car from eyewitness reports and immediately called in for back up. The suspects were cornered in the driveway of a neighboring building through some woods just East of the home .
Steven Deshun Blevins, 30, of 102 South Browder St., and Eddie Anthony Williams, 28, of 132 Lee St., were arrested after deputies found a 16-inch hunting knife, a Ruger Mark II .22 pistol and a Remington Handgun inside of the vehicle (which was confirmed stolen on scene), several prescription pill bottles stolen from an Alabama home that morning and several items that investigators on scene immediately recognized from a Lowndes County burglary.
After the suspects were taken into custody, Lowndes County investigators obtained search warrants for two homes in East Columbus that they had been known to reside in. A search of the properties resulted in the recovery of a cornucopia of stolen merchandise believed to have been taken from area homes in recent months.
Among the stolen items recovered: a complete kitchen knife set with case, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox game systems, an upright vacuum circa 1990’s, three fantasy-style full length swords with ornate, eight AA(Alcoholic Anonymous) commemerative coins, several flat screen televisions, at least two laptop computers, a large container holding more than 9 different types of ammunition, a belt of rifle cartridges, a Sentinel upright gun safe that had been beaten (but not opened), an acetylene welding torch, several sig sauer 40 police issue gun clips (believed to be those known missing from the Columbus Police Department years ago), various household tools and power tools, some jewelry, a marijuana decorated bong believed to have been used to smoke marijuana. Also found in the stash was a wooden jewelry box believed to belong to a Packet reader whose belongings were recently burglarized.
Also discovered in the stash was an empty jar of Jet-Puffed marshmallow creme, used women’s panties in a decorative box, two explicit pornography DVDs and several used and unused rubber gloves. The rubber gloves are believed to be the trademark tool of the burglars, who had apparently hoped to leave no evidence behind.
Within hours of processing the evidence, Sheriff Mike Arledge said he was happy to report Blevins and Williams were likely involved in at least 6 burglaries in Lowndes County and 2 in Alabama. He also stressed that the dubious duo would likely be tied to several more robberies before the dust settles. Williams has already been charged with Possession of a Weapon by a Convicted Felon for the large knife discovered in the car.
Sheriff Arledge and Chief Deputy Marc Miley both commended their entire department for the countless hours that had been put in trying to track down the two suspects. Numerous witnesses had reported seeing the silver Honda (nicknamed “The Silver Fox” by some deputies for its elusiveness) throughout Lowndes County and had reported it as a suspicious vehicle on multiple occasions. Packet reporters had chased Lowndes deputies and investigators on more than 20 occasions in the past two weeks as they investigated burglaries. Miley noted that in addition to patrol cars, deputies have been patrolling local neighborhoods in unmarked vehicles in an attempt to catch the thieves red handed.
Sheriff Arledge noted on Friday morning after the evidence was displayed to the local media that residents should still be vigilant and stay on the lookout for criminal activity, as there were surely other burglars still at large. Arledge also told The Packet that his investigative team was working on several other lead and he felt confident more burglars would be caught in the near future.
Hidden in Plain Sight
The near future Arledge spoke of came sooner than expected for several New Hope residents when their home was raided by Sheriff’s deputies and Lowndes County Narcotics agents shortly after 2 p.m. Monday afternoon. Law enforcement officials swarmed a late model double-wide trailer located at 2995 New Hope Road., on the corner of Pinwood Dr., just North of the New Hope School complex.
Once on scene, deputies detained five young men and two young women inside the home after discovering the remnants of a methamphetamine laboratory in an old shed, precursors to meth in the home’s refuse cans, and a bevy of stolen items inside the home. Narcotics agents, donned in protective clothing and wearing gas masks, carefully searched three trash cans on the property and found the remnants of a “shake-and-bake” methamphetamine lab, used for portable production of the illegal narcotic.
While the agents were processing the evidence, deputies removed musical instruments, guns, televisions, monitors, speakers, and other items from the home believed to be stolen from at least two Lowndes County homes. The instruments were reported on scene to have been from a recent robbery of Border Springs Baptist Church in Lowndes County.
While all seven subjects were taken into custody, only two ended up being charged in the incident. Well known miscreant Kirby Dies, age 39, was charged with Burglary and Manufacturing Methamphetamine and Brianna Reynolds was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine.
The two may face additional charges if authorities decide the manufacturing took place within 1500 feet of the New Hope School property. The school was easily in view of the home and several school buses filled with children cheered for the deputies as the rode by during the incident.
Packet readers may remember the home from Issue #976. Just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday March 21, 2012 , emergency crews rushed to the property for a house fire. The fire was called in by a Lowndes County Sheriff’s Deputy that was in the area, and by the time fire crews arrived, the home was already fully engulfed.
Volunteer and Columbus city firefighters battled the blaze for over two hours, but only succeeded in keeping the flames from spreading to neighboring properties. The house, which belonged to Brandon and Blaise Reynolds, was a complete loss.
It was suspected, but could not be proven at the time, that the fire was the result of a poorly managed meth lab that was housed inside the home.
Speaking of Meth
Not a group known to stay idle, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Deputies followed the lead of Lowndes Narcotics agents and made six more meth-related arrests Wednesday afternoon at two locations off of Hwy 182 E. Narcotics Commander Bobby Grimes and Chief Deputy Marc Miley said that deputies arrested Steven Knight, Scotty Cook, Todd Canida, and Crystal Flowers after stopping their minivan at the Country Mart gas station. Inside the vehicle, agents found a “significant” amount of methamphetamine along with several needles. All four subjects were taken into custody and are expected to be charged with Possession of Methamphetamine.
Minutes later, deputies and agents pulled over a Ford F-150 pickup, driven by Brittany York, in front of a home at 6129 Highway 182 East. According to radio traffic, York slammed on her brakes when she arrived at the home and resisted deputies attempts to detain her. York calmed down shortly after being detained and was allowed to sit on the tailgate of the truck while authorities waited for a judge to sign a search warrant for the home, which reportedly belonged to relative Christian York.
While waiting for the search warrant to arrive, Christian York pulled up alongside the home driving a Hummer H3. Deputies, who were delighted that their main suspect had driven up to the home despite their presence, immediately detained York and searched his vehicle. Although authorities did not specify where the evidence was found, but did reveal that methamphetamine was found on the property along with paraphernalia and baggies used to merchandise the drug. Brittany York was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and Christian York was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine.0