WOOSTER — “It’s like in the movies,” shouted a small boy running west on Nold Avenue Thursday at about 6:30 p.m.
“Come on, let’s go count the police cars,” yelled another, as he raced ahead on his bicycle, while in the backyard of his neighbor’s house, four people were stopped, questioned and arrested by a dozen law enforcement officials.
One woman even asked some of the neighborhood boys if they wanted to take pictures as curious onlookers and residents swarmed their front porches and sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the action, several of whom were on their phones, too.
“Right now phones are blowing up,” said Wooster Patrolman Brandon Heim, after leaving the home at 424 Nold Avenue where the arrests were made at the first stop for Team Echo in Thursday’s round-up of indicted area drug dealers.
A total of 59 secret indictments yielded the arrest warrants in Thursday’s unnamed operation coordinated by Medway Drug Enforcement Agency on drug traffickers mostly in the city of Wooster, but also in Rittman, Orrville Wayne Township, Canton and Massillon.
At the end of the night, 31 were arrested. Of the total 59 warrants, 20 individuals had cash bonds to post, while the rest headed home on personal recognizance bonds once the round-up was finished.
Don Hall, senior agent for Medway and incoming director for the organization, said 12 of the defendants indicted were “Detroit Boys” from the city.
“It still seems to be a large influence here in Wooster,” Hall said. That influence led to a heightened awareness as local officers went out to serve the warrants as intelligence received by law enforcement indicated the Wooster “Detroit Boys” may have been planning a retaliation for a shooting in Canton from Sunday where two women were shot, one of whom died.
Hall explained that these indictments — mostly for trafficking in heroin and opiate-based prescription drugs — followed an eight-month investigation after police arrested Calvin Cunningham, 37, of Detroit, for selling drugs in Wooster. He was later sentenced in January to three years in prison.
Since then, Hall said confidential informants have been buying large amounts of heroin and oxycontin from mid-level people who dealt with Cunningham.
“Once the oxycontin is harder to come by, we started seeing lots of heroin,” he said, as the two drugs ebb and flow in their popularity, and availability, in town.
“It sends a message we’re still out here,” Hall said.
Additionally from the warrants served, he added a small marijuana grow operation was located by officers at a Canal Road home, and a baggie of heroin was found hidden in a man’s buttocks arrested in Rittman as part of the round-up.
Team Delta hit a mobile home park along West Larwill Street. A large contingent of law enforcement officers walked through the park and stopped at one of the mobile homes. They were told the person they were looking for did not live there and were given permission to check the home, yet found no one.
However, a man who was standing near the home was asked for identification. After he presented it, police discovered he was wanted on a warrant in Holmes County. He was handcuffed and brought to the Wayne County Justice Center for processing.
The team handling Rittman found all four people on their list. Two of them were driving out of town as Rittman’s officers were driving into the city. They turned around and pulled the car over, arresting the two people.
A third man was found in the downtown square, and officers picked him up in the middle of the road.
The fourth man on their list was at his son’s Little League game in Smithville. Rittman Sgt. Robert Shows knew the man and did not handcuff him in front of everybody. He did so only after they were behind some cars.
“It was no secret, but we try to be discreet,” Shows said.