Bust nets four arrests
Published 11:47 am Thursday, October 30, 2008
Four North Carolina residents are facing weapons charges after local and federal authorities conducted a joint “buy-bust” operation in a Suffolk shopping center early Wednesday night.
Police from Suffolk and Gates County, N.C., along with officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, coordinated the purchase of a bulletproof vest and eight guns, including an assault rifle and two sawed-off shotguns, said city spokeswoman Debbie George.
The sale wrapped up the two-month investigation into burglaries and stolen firearms in Suffolk and several counties in northeastern North Carolina.
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A contingent of nearly 40 law enforcement officers from various agencies conducted simultaneous raids at four Gates County residences late Wednesday afternoon.
Robert M. Paris, 24, of Gates, was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Rashawn Goodman, 20, of Gates, was charged with possession of firearm by felon, receiving stolen property, sale of stolen guns, two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Dominique Wilkins, 18, of Gates, was charged with numerous federal charges by the ATF. Anton Harrison, 29, of Gates, was charged with possession of a bulletproof vest, and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Gates County Sheriff Edward E. Webb said the raids in his county, as well as the Suffolk arrests, were all connected to a series of weapons thefts. Those thefts have occurred in the North Carolina counties of Gates, Hertford and Pasquotank, as well as in Suffolk.
Handguns, shotguns, high-powered hunting rifles and civilian-model assault weapons appeared to be popular among the thieves.
“This has been an ongoing investigation for the past six months,” Webb said. “We have been working closely with the Suffolk police on this, as well as the federal ATF folks.”
Webb said other arrests are pending. He added that the investigation revealed that the weapons stolen in Gates County were altered by scratching off the serial numbers and then entering them into the illegal gun trade market. Most of those weapons found their way into Virginia, according to the Sheriff.
“From there we believe these weapons have made their way up into the New Jersey and New York area,” Webb said.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, a small army of law enforcement officers gathered at the Hertford County Emergency Management office near Winton to map out a final strategy before making the raids. There, Sheriff Webb issued a warning to those gathered to “be very careful because these guys we’re after are armed.”
Webb added that those being sought for the rash of thefts all have federal and state (North Carolina and Virginia) felony warrants filed against them.
Four teams of eight officers each (plus a fifth squad as back-up) carried out the raids in Gates County without major incident. Officers were forced to shoot and kill a pit bull after they entered one residence in Gates.
“Upon entering that residence, the officers were confronted by a pit bull,” Webb said. “After a verbal command failed to scare off the dog, one shot was fired (apparently in the floor) in an effort to frighten the dog, but the dog continued to advance towards the officers in a threatening manner, so there was no other recourse than to shoot the animal.”
Several other dogs were safely removed from that residence.
Joining the Gates County Sheriff’s Office were lawmen representing the Ahoskie Police Department, Chowan County Sheriff’s Office, Perquimans County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, ALE, Gates County Probation and Parole, N.C. Wildlife and N.C. Highway Patrol.
“Our main focus here was to work this case where the stolen weapons were crossing state lines,” said ATF Resident Agent in Charge Teresa Merhige. “This was a well-orchestrated raid.… The timing was perfect. This says a lot about how well the different agencies can come together as one.”
Cal Bryant is the editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, the News-Herald’s sister paper in Ahoskie, N.C.