When Sgt. Jake Driskell and the Jones County Sheriff's Department came to the home of a suspected drug dealer early Monday, they knocked first - with a battering ram.
Michael Brown, 49, of Laurel was in his living room when Driskell first made contact with him after breaking in the door of his West 18th Street home just before 3 a.m. The suspect had no idea the SWAT team was coming after him, Driskell said. Brown apparently believed he was flying under the radar, working a full-time job locally while also believed to be working as a high-level drug dealer, JCSD officials said.
That all changed in the pre-dawn hours on Monday.
"He put his hands up and he just looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights look, like he had no idea this was coming," said Driskell, who heads up the JCSD's Narcotics Division. "I think he had that fight-or-flight moment where he really just didn't know what to do, but we put him on the ground and took him into custody with no issues."
Two armored vehicles rolled down a quiet 16th Avenue just after 2 a.m. following what was described as an extensive investigation into Brown's activity. The SWAT team executed a no-knock warrant at Brown's residence alongside federal and state agents and arrested Brown for trafficking methamphetamine while in possession of a firearm and within 1,500 feet of a church.
Around 25 law enforcement officials participated in "Operation 009," securing the perimeter, taking the suspect into custody and processing the scene. It was the ninth felony drug case JCSD has worked in the New Year. The result of the operation netted approximately 3.8 pounds of pure methamphetamine, firearms and marijuana, and two vehicles were seized. Brown's wife was also at the residence, but she was not taken into custody or charged. The street value of the meth was around $25,000.
Brown was a "very well-known suspect" who was supplying Jones County and the city of Laurel with a large amount of meth for a long time, said JCSD Chief Deputy Mitch Sumrall.
"They did an outstanding job," Sumrall said. "They put in a lot of time, effort and a lot of hours, and it paid off tonight. He was one of the bigger players in the area. A kingpin."
The meth found on the scene was in the "upper 90 percentile" of purity, coming from all over the place and cheaper to purchase than making it, Driskell said.
"It's a problem everywhere; it's not just a problem here," Driskell said. "We just have an insane influx of it coming into the country."
Getting to Brown comes down to good old-fashioned police work and investigating, Driskell said.
"We may take a couple of pounds of meth off of the street tonight, but someone will take his place next week," Driskell said. "It's a constant battle, and we aren't under the illusion that we can ever stop this, but we are dang sure going to keep our foot on them. They may sell dope in this county, but they aren't going to do it comfortably."
Everyone who wears a badge understands that it may be the last time they go out, Driskell said.
"I know for a fact that God called me to be a police officer," Driskell said. "I've known that for a very long time. I know who my maker is, and I'm not going to go a moment sooner than He says."
The JCSD Narcotics Division has been aggressive in getting drugs off the street as one of the top 10 counties in the state for drug arrests in the past several years. With 700 square miles, Jones is one of the larger counties in the state.
"The biggest reason is because of the size of our county, but I'm also addicted to work. This is what I do," Driskell said. "If you work for me, you're addicted to work, too, or you don't make it very long."
Sheriff Joe Berlin wants the narcotics agents to go after the "biggest fish" they can find, Sumrall said.
job," Sumrall said. "The sheriff said he was going to put a stop to as much crime in Jones County as he could and went after the best people he could find, and tonight, they proved themselves. There's a very dedicated narcotics team in Jones County."
Brown's initial appearance will be this week and he may be prosecuted in federal courts because of the amount of meth that was seized from his residence.
"Great job this morning by JCSD narcotics agents and SWAT Team members in putting this large-scale drug dealer out of business," Berlin said.
Brown is the third suspected large-scale meth dealer arrested in the city in recent weeks.