Drug suspects turn up early

By Bill Estep

bestep@herald-leader.com

Police didn’t have to look for some Knox County drug suspects during a roundup Monday. Several turned themselves in early.

A grand jury indicted 23 people in a five-month investigation Friday. The names of those indicted were read in open court, a standard way to handle grand-jury returns.

What happened next wasn’t exactly standard, though. According to some of those indicted, employees at the courthouse called to let them know they’d been charged, said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director with Operation UNITE.

Some suspects apparently left town. Others came to the courthouse to post bond before being arrested.

By late Monday afternoon, 11 people had been arrested in the case. Of those, seven had turned themselves in, said Karen Engle, president and CEO of UNITE.

That meant police couldn’t look for evidence during surprise searches at their homes or try to interview people during searches to get additional information.

Having suspected drug dealers know police were likely coming for them also was potentially dangerous to officers, Engle said.

“It’s very disappointing that this information was made available ahead of time,” she said.

Police will consider changes for potential future roundups.

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