Only on 9: Local drug operation targets deadly fentanyl sales

Channel 9 is getting an exclusive look inside a major narcotics operation with the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office.

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For two days, Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz rode along with the sheriff’s office to see firsthand what goes into getting drugs off the streets. It took weeks of preparation to execute a drug operation the size of Operation City Sweep.

“Everybody knows the dangers and the risks,” said Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco. “You kick that door in, that person could be sitting here with a gun.”

Day one

The first day started at 4 a.m. at the sheriff’s office, with dozens of officers from teams including SWAT, criminal investigations and narcotics. They reviewed classified information that’s crucial to a safe and successful operation.

Goetz loaded up with Sheriff Crisco and followed the crews who would execute search warrants inside Albemarle city limits.

“Everything is right here inside the city,” Crisco said. “Primarily, our drug problem all originates here. It’s like the dope comes here, then it gets dispersed out.”

The first day’s focus included houses considered among the most dangerous and well-known in the drug community. Goetz was with a member of the SWAT Team.

Crews surrounded a house and used a stun grenade to disorient the people inside.

Entry and arrests are half the battle; crews then have to search the house from top to bottom.

“Anything from marijuana to cocaine, fentanyl, and meth -- that is our main drugs of choice right now here,” Crisco said.

Day two

Goetz started early again and headed out with the sheriff’s office. The first stop of the day was at 5 a.m. and included three houses.

Cruisers lined the streets to hit all three houses at one time in what deputies called a dynamic approach. It’s meant to go quickly, as deputies have the element of surprise on their side to keep everybody safe on the sheriff’s office side.

That day, no stun grenades were used because the sheriff’s office believed children were inside the home.

Sheriff Crisco said drugs are often hidden in creative places. K-9 units covered each house, inside and out. A search of the area could take hours.

Later, deputies split up to execute more warrants.

Goetz went to one home that deputies called a trap house. That means the home doesn’t necessarily have anyone living there, but investigators can see a high volume of drugs coming in and out. People go there to buy and sell.

When Goetz arrived at the trap house, the SWAT Team was going in and out. No one was home at the time they went in, but she could see them running their hands along the side of the gutters or outside the windows. The officers went top to bottom in the home and made sure no drugs were left behind.

Crews said inside, they found furniture stuffed with multiple bags of marijuana. The back of the cruiser was filled with weed, scales and cans with false bottoms.

Takeaways

Operation City Sweep resulted in 21 executed search warrants, 11 arrests, and the seizure of firearms from convicted felons and juveniles. But at the center of it all were drugs: Fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and marijuana.

“The goal is to not just get the targets, but get all the dope off the street,” Crisco said.

“Our goal is to be as proactive as we can to combat this problem. To make it go away,” he added.

The operation turned a corner when it led to three overdose death investigations and one death by distribution arrest.

Goetz sat down with Crisco and Det. Karcin Vick-Dunn after the initial search warrants were executed.

”Someone dumped a body,” Vick-Dunn said.

Goetz was with the sheriff’s office as they executed search warrants on the home of Deonta Maurice Lilly. He was not arrested that day, but just days later, on Jan. 21, the body of Robert “B.J.” Gallimore was found dumped near railroad tracks close to Badin. A memorial sits there today.

Stanly County, with the help of Union County, traced evidence back to Lilly. He was arrested for providing the drugs that killed Gallimore.

“I know we had multiple arrests. There was a lot of wins, but specifically, being able to tell the family we did figure out who gave your loved one the drug that potentially led to his death is a huge win in my book,” Vick-Dunn said.

″If we can target these people and take them off the streets before we have to have another conversation with another family, all day, every day. That’s what’s our goal,” Crisco said.

The three overdose deaths are believed to be directly tied to illegal drug sales in Albemarle. Those investigations led to the execution of 17 additional search warrants.

Watch more coverage of Operation City Sweep in the video below: