Early Monday morning, while most of the city was asleep, law enforcement officials raided nine homes, including seven in Middletown, after a six-month investigation into a drug trafficking ring in the Middletown area.
The agencies seized drugs, guns and 20 vehicles allegedly used in drug trafficking, said Maj. Scott Reeve from the Middletown Division of Police. He said Middletown police, FBI, ATF, Butler County Drug Task Force and Warren County Drug Task Force and five SWAT teams collaborated in issuing the federal warrants.
Police were “a little concerned” about the potential for violence from the alleged drug dealers, but Reeve said the operation went “off without a hitch.”
The federal search warrants were issued at: 826 16th Ave., Middletown; 6930 Mt. Vernon, Apt. 9, Middletown; 6880 Brandywine, Apt. 12, Middletown; 806 17th Ave., Middletown; 2703 Roosevelt Blvd., Middletown; 1901 Circle Kelly Jo, Middletown; 300 S. Sutphin St., Middletown; 925 Cleverly Road, Dayton; and 9167 Country Pond Trail, Miamisburg.
There was one arrest, but Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said more arrests are coming, and he believes the “drug ring” is responsible for half of the drugs in the city.
“This was huge for us and this area,” Muterspaw said. “With (Monday) and what’s coming next, if I was a dealer in this part of Ohio, I’d be looking over my shoulder for a long time. We’re onto you. We don’t want you here and our directive is to do whatever it takes to put you away.”
He said the drug dealers have a direct or indirect connection to the homicides of Teresa Shields, Benny Barefield, Kapriece Fuller and others.
Benwan Edwards, 25, at large, was taken into custody Monday by federal agents, though his charges have not been released. He has been charged 61 times in Middletown since 2012, according to court records reviewed by the Journal-News. He was charged seven times last year, including with participating in a criminal gang, felonious assault, assault and having weapons under disability, according to court records.
He was charged 18 times in 2012, four times in 2013, nine times in 2014, twice in 2015, 12 times in 2016, and nine times in 2017.
Edwards is the son of Barefield, 48, of the 800 block of Ninth Avenue, who was found shot 10:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 2018 in his red Buick Lucerne at the corner of Yankee Road and Ninth Avenue, said Maj. Scott Reeve.
Barefield was taken to Atrium Medical Center and pronounced dead, according to Middletown police.
Reeve said major drug busts like this occur every few years in the city, but he’s unsure what impact it will have on drug activity. There will be a drop, but eventually any dealers who are jailed will be replaced.
“It’s constant,” he said. “But you can’t stop. It gets worse, worse and worse if you give up.”
Chris Newcomb, who lives on Circle Kelly Jo, where one of the nine search warrants was issued, said when he looked out his kitchen window Monday morning he saw SWAT members wearing vests and carrying guns “ready to go do their thing.” He said they entered the house and left several times with items.
Newcomb said the man who lives in the house drives several cars and periodically changes license plates. He said sometimes the vehicles are parked down the street, away from the residence.
He described the neighborhood as “always quiet.”
Anyone with information should contact Sgt. Jamie Wilcox at 513-425-7749.
IN OUR COMMUNITIES
The Journal-News learned about Monday morning’s search warrants and arrest and immediately published a story on journal-news.com and began following leads. We visited the locations, talked to neighbors and police and dug into the backgrounds of those involved, continuing our commitment to being present and reporting on the communities we serve. For news tips, please contact us at 513-863-8200 ext. 6 or ButlerCountyNews@coxohio.com.