MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Mississippi County law enforcement made several arrests in connection with a large scale drug operation.
According to Drug Task Force Special Agent Lt. Bobby Ephlin with the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department, 11 people were arrested Friday night after investigators executed five search warrants simultaneously at three homes on West Rose, one home on B Hearn and one home on Dogwood in Blytheville.
The search warrants were executed after a three month investigation in connection with the distribution of methamphetamines and high potency marijuana in the Blytheville area and possession of firearms, according to investigators.
Those arrested include Olivia Gonzalez, Shamajhai Evans, Michael Harris,Terence Spinks, Charles Stallworth, Issac Black, husband and wife Kenneth Brown, Sr. and Jamie Brown, their two sons Kenneth Brown II and Tremayne Brown, and the Browns' nephew Bobby Knight, all of Blytheville.
All of the people who were arrested have prior felony convictions except Evans and Jamie Brown.
Officers from the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department and the Second Judicial District Drug Task Force (DTF) confiscated $19,464 in cash, 26 lbs. of "high quality" marijuana valued at $125,000, and 1.9 lbs. of meth valued at $76,700. "The large amount of high grade, high potency marijuana and this ice, it's coming in from probably Mexico," said Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook.
The marijuana is considered high potency because it is genetically engineered to have a higher amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to Lt. Ephlin.
Investigators also seized more than a dozen firearms valued at $9,000, including three AK-47 assault rifles with 30 round magazines, one AR-15 assault rifle with a 30 round magazine, and 11 handguns.
According to police, two of the handguns were reported stolen in Blytheville, one was reported stolen in Osceola and one was reported stolen from Jonesboro. The investigation is still ongoing, but police suspect all of the firearms were stolen.
The total value of the seizures is $230,164.
"This is just another link, if you will, in our intensive efforts to slow or try to eliminate the drug trafficking in Mississippi County and as you notice also the large amount of weapons that we are taking off the street out of these criminals' hands," said Sheriff Cook. "They've been very dedicated to this cause and I'm very pleased on what they've been doing and we just got to keep fighting it."
"All of these drugs are not necessarily going to be used in Mississippi County. It would be distributed among several counties in Northeast Arkansas and possibly back to Memphis," he said.
The Osceola and Blytheville Police Departments assisted the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department and DTF in the operation.
OPD Chief David Gladden said the DTF, which was started four years ago by Blytheville Chief of Police Ross Thompson, former Osceola Chief Ray Rigsby and former Mississippi County Sheriff Leroy Meadows, is invaluable to Mississippi County. "It allows us to get to the bigger players," he said. "Not just the street level dealers selling one rock here, and one rock there."
"For a small agency the Drug Task Force is very beneficial. There's resources there that we would not have access to if we were just running a one or two man drug operation."
Despite the weapons on hand, the arrests occurred without incident.
"Anytime we go into these operations I'm always concerned about the welfare of the officers, as well as the citizens when we're involved with this and there were no injuries and obviously it was rather fruitful," said Chief Thompson.
The eleven people arrested will appear in Blytheville Municipal Court on Wednesday, January 23 for a probable cause hearing.