'The police are here!'

Early morning Drug and Gang Unit bootlegging raid in Chinle nets 12 arrests

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, May 10, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: A deputy with the Apache County Sheriff's Office runs with weapon in hand May 4 during Operation Ice Boot in Chinle. Nine people were arrested for allegedly bootlegging and dealing marijuana and methamphetamine.

SECOND FROM TOP: A Navajo Nation Police officer stands guard as undercover officers enter a home in Many Farms, Ariz., whose occupants are suspected of bootlegging May 4 during Operation Ice Boot.

BOTTOM: Undercover Navajo Nation Police officers load boxes of alcoholic beverages into the back of an Apache County police unit May 4 during Operation Ice Boot in Chinle.

A n early morning raid on suspected bootleggers and drug dealers in the Chinle area May 4 netted 12 arrests - nine suspected dealers and three apparent customers, a police spokesman said.

Booked were alleged dealers Craig Descheenie, of Rock Point; Oscar Wheeler, Round Rock; Anderson and Stella Jumbo, Many Farms; Chadney James (methamphetamines), Chinle; Emerson and Sherry Haudley, Chinle; and Anthony Brown, Chinle.

Three men - Felix Brown, Chester Williams and David Singer, all of Chinle - were arrested on charges of possession at the Anthony Brown residence.

Ages were not available on any of the suspects.

Since the raid started at 5:30 a.m., "We didn't expect to find any customers at that hour," said Gilbert Yazzie, acting sergeant for the Navajo Nation Police's Drug and Gang Unit. "But we did."

A 10th home was raided but police believe the suspect was warned, as "everything was cleared out of there," Yazzie said.

"These guys are all connected," he said. "At one house we could actually hear them calling someone, saying, 'The police are here!' That's why we have to do it all as quickly as possible."

The raids were finished and the suspects on their way to U.S. District Court in Flagstaff by 10:30 a.m., according to Yazzie.

Yazzie said the raids were the result of a sting operation that has been going on since January, with undercover police officers posing as customers for illegal booze and drugs.

It was a joint effort between Navajo Nation Police, the Apache County Sheriff's Office and the FBI.

"People are always saying, 'How come you guys don't do anything? We know who the bootleggers are,'" Yazzie said. "The fact is, we are doing something, but we need to keep it on the down low so we don't expose our officers. We're probably operating in your town right now, or we will be soon."

The Drug and Gang Unit was created under the auspices of the FBI eight years ago, and went independent two years later.

"We've been improving since then, and I think we finally have it down," Yazzie said. "The training we got was in metropolitan areas, so we've had to develop a lot of our own methods. Our area is a lot different."

Because secrecy is so important, the unit keeps details of the investigations even from their superiors in the police department until the raids are over, Yazzie said.

"At first, it was hard for our chief and department director to understand," he said. "But now that we've demonstrated our effectiveness, they're really supportive."

Citizens can report suspected drug and alcohol dealers directly to the unit at 928-871-7710 - but don't expect instant results.

"An investigation can take three or four months," Yazzie said.

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