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Ohio AG Forms New Drug Task Force

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Gallia County Sheriff Joseph Browning, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift, Gallipolis Police Chief Clinton Patterson, Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, and Meigs County Prosecutor Colleen Williams announced today that an investigation by a newly formed Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC) task force has resulted in the arrest of two people and the seizure of cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy.

Porter Mitchell, 38, of Gallipolis, and Michelle Walker, 36, of Rio Grande, were both arrested this morning after task force members served search warrants at P.J.’s Pool Hall and a neighboring residence on State Route 7 North in Gallipolis just after midnight.

As a result, authorities found more than 140 grams of powered cocaine, 11 grams of heroin, and a small amount of ecstasy. More than $18,000 in cash was also seized.

Investigators said the pool hall was a front for an ongoing drug trafficking operation. Mitchell operated the establishment and lived next door.

The above mentioned agencies recently formed the OOCIC task force in an effort to fight drug abuse and drug trafficking in southeast Ohio. OOCIC is a division of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office.

“The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission has the tools to help local law enforcement agencies fight crimes that cross county or state lines,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Drug abuse is an issue in every corner of the state, and this is a great example of agencies working together in the fight against drugs.”

“This case shows that the combined efforts of law enforcement working together in southeast Ohio can help put a dent in the drug trafficking that is fueling thefts and burglaries,” said Gallia County Sheriff Browning. “We appreciate the assistance of our neighboring jurisdictions in the task force, and we will have future arrests as a result of the ongoing investigations they are conducting.”

“Drugs are an ongoing problem in southeast Ohio, and now with the assistance of OOCIC we have the resources and the manpower to be even more aggressive against the people bringing these substances into our communities,” said Meigs County Sheriff Wood.

Mitchell and Walker were both arrested on felony charges of possession of drugs and possession of heroin.

Additional charges could be filed.

--UPDATE--

In a press conference late this afternoon area law enforcement unveiled months of hard work and sending a message directly to the “bad guys” – drugs and theft will not be tolerated.

The conference was the first that a special task force could publicly be acknowledged by the law enforcement officials. Working together, the Meigs and Gallia County Sheriff’s Offices along with the Middleport Police Department and the Gallipolis Police Department were able to pool information that lead to two arrests in the early morning hours. Arrested were Porter Mitchell and Michelle Walker. The new task force called the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC) is the result of months of hard investigative work according to Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning.

“This is a big deal on a lot of levels,” Sheriff Browning said. He said taxpayers should see a return in the investment for the law enforcement involved in working together to crack down on crime. He also explained that until arrests had been made the task force was to be kept secret and no official information could be released on it until then.

This one bust turned up more than $18,000 in cash, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, coins, scales and other items being seized. Law enforcement officers were working through the night to make the early morning arrests and charged Mitchell and Walker for their alleged connection at P.J.’s Pool Hall and a residence. According to Sheriff Browning the pool hall appeared to be a legitimate business but it was actually a front for drug trafficking. All of the officials agreed that this is just the beginning of their collaboration.

Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood said, “the four leaderships really try to reach out to one another.” He said that crime travels across the boarders of the two counties. He also noted the effort that has been involved with working together to make the difference in making such arrests possible.

Sheriff Browning noted that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office had been instrumental in the task force with financial assistance. All of the officials agreed that because they were working together, more funding was available to combat drug related crime in the area. Sheriff Browning added that this was just the start of a more aggressive stance the two counties would be taking against such crime.

Middleport Police Chief Bruce Swift said some of the same people that commit crime in Meigs County also do so in Gallia County. “They do not recognize boarders,” he said. With the task force, law enforcement can work together, share information and work to stay ahead of criminals.

Gallipolis Police Chief Clinton Patterson noted that criminals can just as easily come to Gallipois, shoplift and slip across the county boarder and vice versa.

Law enforcement officials working behind the scenes had spent months working up to the arrests. It is expected that as the OOCIC continues, more such arrests will be made.

The article and photo credit from the Meigs Independent Press. 

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