Police sweep Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

At least 14 fugitives arrested; officers continue their efforts

By Jason Norman

It’s early Friday morning, and Sgt. John Sanker and the rest of the Suffolk Police Department are ready to clean up the town.

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In conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office and parole/probation officers, Sanker and his officers are searching for 24 people around Suffolk who have violated the conditions of their probation or parole.

It’s the second annual Operation Clean Sweep. Perhaps it’s fitting that the event falls on Friday the 13th -this could be an unlucky day for the people on the list.

&uot;This is a great opportunity for us to network together,&uot; Sanker tells a room full of law enforcement officials at the Sector One precinct on East Washington Street. &uot;Please be mindful when obtaining a suspect, and hopefully this will run smooth.&uot;

Chief Probation Officer Grant Knight told the crowd why those on the list had been specifically chosen.

&uot;We based it upon those that we thought we had the best chance to get,&uot; he said. &uot;These are the ones that we’ve been looking for the longest, and who we have the best chance of finding.&uot;

Less than half an hour into the hunt, Officer J.K.Cooke, gets a radio message saying that one person on the list has already been apprehended.

Cooke and some of his colleagues head to a nearby house to look for the person first on their list, which has been divided into groups of three. There’s no one who can help, but they get a tip that the woman likes to hang out near a local funeral home, so they drive there and start questioning some of the people standing outside.

Suddenly, a buzz crackles over Cooke’s radio. There’s a wanted person in a house on Pitchkettle Road. He’s not coming out, and the officer’s calling for backup.

Cooke rushes to his car, slides on his seatbelt, and hits the gas pedal hard. Rocketing up East Washington Street at 50 miles an hour, he’s steering with one hand and adjusting the siren with the other.

A few minutes later, several patrol cars pull up to the house. Officers, some of whom have their guns drawn, take perimeter at the corners of the house.

One of the officers knocks on the door. Then he does it again, harder.

&uot;Open the door!&uot; he shouts. &uot;Open the door or we’ll break it down!&uot;

A woman opens the door, and steps out onto the porch to speak with the officers. After a few moments, she nods toward the inside of the house, and several officers slowly move inside, guns still drawn.

&uot;Come on out!&uot; an officer’s voice blares from inside the house. &uot;This is your last chance to come on out!&uot;

Then, seconds later, &uot;Get on the ground! Get on the ground, now!&uot;

Eventually, a man steps toward the front door. Officers allow him to put on a shirt and hat, then handcuff him and put him inside a van bound for Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

It was Shawn Mitchell, a common sight on the Suffolk News-Herald’s weekly Crime Line feature, who was wanted for rape, abduction, and other charges.

&uot;The officers were on him before he got anywhere, so he was arrested without incident,&uot; Sanker says later. &uot;We knew his history of running and being violent.&uot;

Over the next few hours, 11 more suspects are brought in, including one charged with possession of nearly 10 ounces of marijuana, scales and packaging materials inside of a vehicle. Several provided addresses deemed no longer in existence, which will save officers the time of having to go there time and time again.

&uot;It’s a success,&uot; says Sanker. &uot;Obviously, we’d like to get a 100 percent success rate, but we made an impact.

&uot;Word’s going to get out. If we can get them to come in and see their parole and probation officers, that’s what the judges want to see.

&uot;Our biggest thing today was networking,&uot; he says. &uot;Working together so closely, we get to tap into the areas of expertise that each agency has.&uot;