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65 fugitives arrested in Panhandle sweep

April 15, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Several local law enforcement agencies, working with the U.S. Marshals Service, arrested 65 fugitives in the Eastern Panhandle last week, including a man wanted in Delaware for failure to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a young girl there, according to authorities.

Flanked by officials from six area police departments, U.S. Marshal J.C. Raffety announced Thursday afternoon the local and national results of Operation Falcon (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) - a weeklong effort that began April 4.

For a month or two before the operation, participating police agencies identified which fugitives they planned to try to arrest, and put together a plan of action, Raffety said.

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Officers worked around the clock tracking down fugitives, he said.

One of those arrested was wanted for kidnapping and severely beating his girlfriend. After learning he was in a home in Hedgesville, W.Va., several officers arrested him, U.S. Marshal Jeff Stine said.

The man wanted in Delaware for failure to register as a sex offender had been living in a Martinsburg apartment complex for two weeks. Because those required to register as a sex offender must do so within 10 days, the man was charged with that offense here, West Virginia State Police Sgt. Eric Burnett said.

One fugitive was arrested after a citizen called police to alert them of possible drug activity in an apartment complex. When a group of officers arrived, they found the man in a car that was surrounded by people, Stine said.

"These are dangerous people and we feel comfortable taking them off the street," Raffety said.

He said the police departments were able to put aside any egos and work together. Residents of the Eastern Panhandle should be proud of local law enforcement agencies, Raffety said.

"I know I am," he said.

Participating police agencies were: the West Virginia State Police, with troopers serving 25 fugitive warrants; Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, serving 20 warrants; Martinsburg Police Department, serving 15 warrants; Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, serving one warrant; Charles Town Police Department; Harpers Ferry Police Department; Shepherdstown Police Department; and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Also, the U.S. Marshals Service served four fugitive warrants.

The underlying charges that caused fugitive warrants to be issued were: 30 charges of domestic battery, seven charges of assault, four charges of sexual assault, three drug-related charges, three parole/probation violations, five charges of burglary, four charges of forgery/fraud, and one count each of stalking, wanton endangerment with a firearm, malicious wounding, failure to appear, kidnapping, armed robbery, brandishing a weapon, contempt and escape, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Operation Falcon was the largest violent crime apprehension program in history, Raffety said.

Given its success, future similar operations are likely, he said.

Burnett said he assigned three state troopers to the operation. They served warrants issued not only by the State Police but by other police agencies as well.

All but four of those arrested were wanted on state or local warrants.

State troopers are still working to arrest one fugitive not found during the weeklong effort, Burnett said.

Nationwide, 10,340 fugitives were arrested, officials said.

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