Undercover narcotics officers from the Springfield Police Department got a bit of a surprise this week when a suspected drug house they were investigating turned out to be selling something other than the usual crack cocaine. With Mayor Tim Davlin along to observe, officers served a search warrant on a house at #3 Manor Court and found what police say was "a large-scale heroin distribution operation."
The search, conducted at 5:40 p.m. Monday, uncovered approximately 50 grams of heroin, 18 grams of cannabis, digital scales, packaging equipment, a loaded .38 caliber revolver, and $1,225 in cash. Some of the heroin was packaged for sale into small baggies. Most of it, though, was contained in three Tootsie-Roll-size chunks not yet broken into small, salable amounts. These chunks appeared to have been compressed into shapes suitable for smuggling in a body cavity.
The estimated street value of the heroin was $17,500, according to SPD.
SPD had gotten tips about the house from neighbors and Crime Stoppers, as well as Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz, who lives just a few doors down. Kunz says he became suspicious about the house due to the ebb and flow of traffic.
"There were days with no traffic, and days with all kinds of traffic, like a shipment had come in," he says.
But Kunz, who has lived on Manor Court long enough to remember counting 144 cars entering the cul-de-sac in a single weekend, says he never imagined these shipments were heroin.
"I didn't really realize that heroin was that prevalent again. I thought it was all crack and pot and meth," he says. "Problem around here is the violence that comes with it. They're not real good shots; they can't hit each other."
Davlin says one reason he rode along on the raid was because he believes such drug operations are the root of the city's crime problems.
"If we rid this city of the drug problem, we're going to rid this city of the majority of the crime," Davlin says.
The mayor joined SPD officers for their preraid briefing, where he gave them the opportunity to say whether they were comfortable having him ride along.
"I wouldn't go if any one of them thought I'd be in their way," Davlin says. "But I was not in their way or in harm's way, either."
The mayor wore a bulletproof vest and helmet and rode in the front seat of the van, where he got a good view of officers detonating a flash-bang grenade before entering the house.
"You certainly gain a lot of respect for what these guys do. They literally put their lives on the line, going into a house where they know there are drugs and likely weapons," he says. "I certainly have high respect for every one of those officers."
A memo written by SPD Sgt. Ron Vose describing the bust to his supervisors indicates that the narcotics unit has been "tracking recent information concerning an increase in the availability of heroin in Springfield." The search warrant was obtained by Officer Paula Morrow, and executed with the help of Neighborhood Police Officers Matt Fricke and Chris Russell, along with SPD's Emergency Response Team.
SPD arrested four people in this house: Diana M. Abbott, 21; William D. Perry, 48; Tyrone L. Wade, 28; and Montez Coleman, 22. Abbott, Perry, and Wade were all charged with manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance, manufacture/delivery of cannabis, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and no firearm-owner identification (FOID) card. Coleman was arrested on four outstanding warrants -- possession of cannabis, domestic battery, and two traffic offenses.
The office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County confirms that Wade has multiple felony convictions for drug, firearms, and domestic battery charges in Chicago. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, heroin has been making a "deadly comeback" in Chicago. For the past five years, Chicago has had more heroin-related emergency-room visits than any place in the nation, the article said.
Preliminary tests with field equipment indicated that what was found in the house on Manor Court was heroin, but the substances have been sent to Illinois State Police crime lab for further analysis.
Kunz missed the bust because he was on a trip to Las Vegas (he was making good on a promise to take his wife to an Elton John concert), although Davlin called him in Vegas to give him the good news. Kunz says this set of arrests closed the only currently operating drug house he knows of on his street.
"But two other houses just changed hands," he says.