GURDON — Thursday morning’s drug raid was called Operation Ice Pick because law enforcement agencies are trying to “break up, pick at and chip away the ice (methamphetamine) trafficking in this county,” Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Blake Batson said during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Gurdon Municipal Building.
GURDON — Thursday morning’s drug raid was called Operation Ice Pick because law enforcement agencies are trying to “break up, pick at and chip away the ice (methamphetamine) trafficking in this county,” Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Blake Batson said during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Gurdon Municipal Building, where several residents and news outlets listened as officials told reporters of the sting.
During the pre-dawn drug sting, police seized $52,000 worth of methamphetamine — the main drug they were after — as well as crack cocaine and marijuana. More than 40 controlled buys were administered during the 11-month investigation. Officials said children were present at most of the buys and Thursday’s arrests.
With the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration and numerous local law enforcement agencies — combined with their “dedication and countless hours of work done by Group 6 Task Force officers — “we are protecting our children and families from this devastating drug,” Batson said.
Most of the 23 arrests Thursday were from Clark County, while others were made in Hot Spring and Faulkner counties.
Their names were made public, as their mugshots were on display during the conference. They are Thomas Gulley, 47; Bobby Charles, 32; Bobby Jerome Macon, 34; Elander Kennel; Teresa Grigsby, 48; Chris Penny; Marcus Horton, 21; Samson Kadari; Kenyuan Morris; Candelario Leon; Carlton Marks, 38; Kristopher Harvey, 29; Andrae Barnes; Bobby Holiman; James Campbell; Julian Marks, 45; Wheatie Wells, 34; Kevin Reed and David Ellis.
Six have been indicted in federal court and 13 have been charged in Clark County Circuit Court. Four were charged with drug trafficking offenses in Malvern (two in federal court and two in Hot Spring County Circuit Court).
Batson was one of a handful of speakers. Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the state’s Western District; Bill Bryant, assistant special agent with the DEA; and Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson also spoke.
“Like many small towns, Gurdon has been plagued by drug trafficking — including selling drugs near schools and playgrounds,” Eldridge said. “With this case, numerous drug traffickers in the area have been arrested and are being prosecuted. Cleaning up drug activity is vital to the success of Gurdon, as it is for all communities. For this reason, we remain focused on prosecuting drug trafficking across the Western District.”
Bryant said, “Unfortunately, small towns in Arkansas are not immune to drug trafficking. DEA worked with state and local counterparts in this area of the state in an effort to disrupt these drug trafficking activities.”
Watson added: “I appreciate the assistance from all of the agencies involved as this was a very vital operation in Clark County. Taking office, I knew that we had a major problem in the southern area of our county. We hope that today’s operation shows that we will have a zero tolerance policy on this type of behavior. If you live in Clark County and choose to engage in this activity and supply our children with dangerous drugs, you can expect these results.”
According to documents filed in court, the investigation included numerous controlled purchases of methamphetamine and crack cocaine in Gurdon and the surrounding area. In many cases, children were present during the drug transactions.
The maximum penalty for the federal charge of distribution of methamphetamine in this case is 40 years in prison.
Operation Ice Pick is a joint operation between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Ninth East Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the Arkansas State Police, the Arkadelphia Police, the Gurdon Marshal’s Office and the Arkansas Highway Police.
Eldridge, Batson and assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Wulff are prosecuting the case.