JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Seven people, who officials say were part of a major drug operation with gang ties, were arrested early Tuesday morning in Jackson County and Pearl River County.
Officials say the crackdown will have a major impact on the flow of drugs into South Mississippi, and have a positive impact on every coast city and county.
And it's not over yet: More arrests are coming.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said investigators were looking for nine suspects in an area of Jackson County known as "The Hill." He said the dealers have been selling meth, pills, cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana. They've also been fencing stolen goods, and trading those things for narcotics, which has caused problems for residents in the Vancleave area.
While those warrants were being executed, authorities also apprehended two drug suspects in Pearl River County. All those arrested face federal charges related to trafficking narcotics, sales and distribution.
The investigation involved local, state, and federal authorities worked together. The FBI's Special Agent in Charge for Mississippi, Christopher Freeze, said the Safe Streets Task Force has been making great inroads in the area, especially when it comes to battling the opioid problem.
"A number of deaths in this general area can be tied to the opioids that were being sold illegally as part of this operation," Freeze said. "As many as 55,000 people die every year from opioid deaths."
He said that's the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing every four or four and a half days.
"Can you imagine if that many people were falling out of the skies? The uproar that would take place? We need to have that same enthusiasm and same concern about addressing opioid problems. And the work that was done here today is a step in that direction."
So far, officials have released the names of seven people arrested during Tuesday's roundup. They include:
Terry Reddix (aka Fathead), Vancleave
Sharon Stallone (aka Sharbear Boss), Vancleave
John Cooley, Vancleave
Marcus Reddix, Ocean Springs
Darryl Williams (aka Big Blood), Vancleave
Michael Ward (aka Chicken)
Requita Magee, Picayune
Marcel Graves (aka Picayune Black), Picayune
Those facing federal charges are expected to appear before a federal magistrate Wednesday morning.