A traffic stop and a Criminal Interdiction Team checkpoint became the catalyst for the arrest of two men — one from Sampson, the other from Cumberland — and the seizure of marijuana and heroin in two different incidents over the past few days.
Sheriff Jimmy Thornton called both 'successful stops' that took drugs off the streets before they wound up in the hands of others.”
Taken into custody was TyShawn Rich, 22, of 1386 N. Peavine Road, Clinton, arrested April 3, following a traffic stop on Sunset Avenue in Clinton, and Terrance Whitfield, 37, of 1455 Bridger St., Fayetteville, arrested April 5 at a checkpoint on Newton Grove Highway.
Rich is facing charges of felony possession with intent to sell and deliver heroin, felony possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
Whitfield was charged with felony possession of cocaine and simple possession of marijuana.
In the April 3 case, deputies with the CID unit stopped a car Rich was a passenger in near the Sunoco gas station on Sunset Avenue for a motor vehicle violation. When they approached his vehicle, deputies noted in reports that they smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. That precipitated a search of the vehicle and the passengers.
Rich was found to be in possession of 25.5 grams of marijuana and 10 dosage units of heroin.
He was taken to the Sampson County Detention Center and placed under a $20,000 bond.
Thornton has noted in recent weeks that heroin confiscated in Sampson has often been headed to another destination, such as Wilmington, but eventually winds up in the hands of locals. He reiterated that point Monday, saying that it is usually just a matter of time before drugs like that wind up back on Sampson streets.
“Even when it's distributed somewhere else, it always makes it way back here, or at least some of it does. In this case, there were 10 dosage units that found their way back into our county and, had our officers not made the stop, likely could have wound up in the hands of five or 10 other people.
“In this case, at least, it won't get in those hands.”
Thornton said while heroin still wasn't one of the top drugs of choice in Sampson, the seizure was a signal that officers were beginning to see more of it than, say, a year ago.
“With prescription pills getting harder to come by, with all the regulations, and with the street value of heroin cheaper than those pills, some will turn to it. If heroin is out there, an addict that can't get their drug of choice will certainly go for it. They'll take whatever they can to get that high.”
Thornton praised his officers for what he called a “solid stop,” noting that their extensive training in picking up critical indicators helps them to spot potential drug offenders.
Two days later, near Newton Grove, Whitfield was taken into custody after he admitted to CID deputies at the checkpoint that those in the vehicle were in possession of drugs.
That admission led officers to search the vehicle, turning up a plastic bag containing .5 grams of crack cocaine in Whitfield's coat pocket and 20.5 grams of marijuana inside the vehicle.
Whitfield was taken to the Sampson Detention Center and placed under a $7,000 secured bond.
Thornton acknowledged the good he believes traffic checkpoints do, noting that they are not only beneficial in catching those with drugs in their possession but oftentimes aid in catching breaking and entering suspects and deterring crimes in a given neighbor, at least for a while.
“Look 95 percent of all crimes committed start with a motor vehicle of some kind, so having these checkpoints in different areas of the county only make sense,” Thornton stressed. “We do them frequently and in various areas where things are going on, where we might have gotten tips of illegal activity.
“It will slow down that activity, at least for a while and, at the same time, it sends a strong message to both criminals and the community, letting them know we are out there and we are watching,” the sheriff said.