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Police charge 2 in drug raid at W.Va. housing complex

August 02, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A man who thought he was helping to direct a normal U-Haul moving van into the parking lot of an apartment complex last Friday night got a surprise when the back door opened and 12 members of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department jumped out wearing SWAT-like gear.

The man was one of two arrested on a drug charge during a raid at the Capital Heights apartment complex outside of Martinsburg.

The names of the two men charged were not available Monday. Heroin and crack cocaine were found during the raid, and more arrests are likely, police said.

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Two apartments, Nos. 12 and 14 on Boarman Place, were searched during the raid, which began about 11:30 p.m. Friday, police said.

Because the complex is plagued with drugs, police said they could not simply drive marked police cars to it.

"They have scanners. And they have lookouts and they have cell phones," Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster said of drug dealers at the complex.

By the time officers in uniform arrive, either the drugs or the dealers - or both - are gone, Lemaster said.

Taking a creative approach, members of the department's Special Response Team loaded into the back of a rented U-Haul van, Lemaster said. When the driver of the van, wearing plain clothes, backed the van up to the apartments, a man used his arms to guide them in and prevent them from hitting any other cars, Lemaster and Sheriff Randy Smith said.

A "distraction device" - a loud noisemaker - was tossed from an unmarked car behind the apartments to distract the residents as police entered the apartments using a battering ram, Lemaster said.

Police constantly receive tips and calls from residents of the apartment complex, asking for help eliminating drugs.

Drugs dealers from Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington have been hanging out at the apartment complex or staying with someone, but not usually paying rent, police said.

"The full-time paying residents of the Capital Heights area have legitimate complaints about the fact that they don't feel safe coming out of their homes," said Smith, who said he hopes the raid makes a dent in the drug trade there. "We're trying to clean up the neighborhood for them."

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