PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - It was a big day for Jackson County law enforcement and residents. After a year-long investigation in high-crime areas of the county between federal and local authorities, a lot of guns, drugs and eight people are now off the streets with two more to go.
It isn’t the largest criminal bust in Jackson County, but this latest effort had a life of its own.
“It’s been very intense,” Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell at a joint news conference on Thursday. “When you target certain high-crime areas, you have to spend a lot of time there. We’ve been very focused on this investigation.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the South Mississippi Metro Enforcement Team have been targeting areas with the highest number of crimes throughout the county since March 2020. Eight people, all from Jackson County, are in federal custody charged with drug trafficking and weapons violations.
They are John Fisher, Emmanuel Dukes, Henry Adams, Bryson Bailey, Michael Walker, Lenard Thomas, Shawn Ethridge and Gabriel Lowery.
“In order to get these folks off the streets, it takes time,” Ezell said. “And it’s not something that can be easily done.”
In fact, two others targeted in this investigation are still at large: Johnny Washington and Ledarrius Forrest.
“They are dangerous, they are armed,” Ezell added. “They have been in the past, and there’s no reason they wouldn’t be armed now.”
All the suspects have long criminal histories with 150 arrests between them. Ezell wouldn’t say if these suspects were tied into any specific investigations through other individual agencies.
“These folks are involved in more than one criminal enterprise operation,” he said. “They don’t just limit themselves to drugs. They are often involved in many other things. We’ll just leave it at that.”
In addition, 22 guns and 650 grams of meth were seized in the investigation.
ATF agent Jason Denham said the types of crimes involved require a federal partnership, but this collaboration makes the work much easier.
“When it calls for us to get involved in something that reaches what we call federal nexus, it’s really seamless,” said Denham. “But that is more a testament to them than, really, it is for us. We have a great collaboration here.”
Ezell added “It’s a big win for law enforcement. It’s a big win for the citizens of our county when we get guns, bad guys and narcotics off the street.”
Another suspect in the investigation, Dustin Suttles, was killed and his body found was found Sept. 22, 2020, floating in the Pascagoula River.
Four men are charged with capital murder in the case.