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    Secret Buffalo Drug Raids Arrest 78



    Suspect Youthers Greer, above left, is restrained by Officers Martin Motley, left, and Earl Perrin as he tries to escape through a kitchen window during a raid Thursday on Koons Avenue.


    Officer Motley smashes a glass door to gain entry for a house raid on Grant Street.

    VANESSA THOMAS and T.J. PIGNATARO
    Buffalo News

    A loud "flash bang" concussion device detonated inside a Kensington Avenue house as Buffalo police SWAT officers, clad in black armor and brandishing automatic assault rifles, stormed a lower apartment.

    "Buffalo police. Search warrant. Buffalo police," the officers yelled to the stunned occupants inside.

    Within seconds, several shotgun blasts were fired. At the same instant, another officer cradled a 1-year-old boy out the front door and down a flight of steps to safety.

    When the smoke cleared, three large pit bull terriers lay dead, in pools of their own blood. And five people were in handcuffs. They were among the 78 people arrested on drug charges during a three-day crackdown on narcotics sales across the city.

    The drug busts, dubbed "Operation Shock and Awe," began Tuesday and are believed to be the first time the Buffalo Police Department has tried secret, consecutive raids.

    By the operation's conclusion Thursday evening, police had seized about six pounds of marijuana, seven ounces of crack cocaine, five guns and more than $11,000 in cash. In all, they executed 38 search warrants in every corner of the city.

    "We are declaring war on street-level drug dealing," said Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson as he drove a Buffalo News reporter to the site of a raid Thursday.

    "The reason for the secrecy is that we didn't want the drug dealers to know that we were coming," he added. "This has put a dent in the drug trade, put some operations out of business and addressed the fears of some of the residents. These residents are glad to see us taking action against drug dealers."

    Besides cracking down on street-level drugs, police said the raids were designed as a means to interview the suspects about recent homicides or shootings.

    "This is not just about drugs," Narcotics Lt. Thomas R. Lyon said. "A lot of drug dealers have knowledge about violent crimes. Either they've heard who committed a shooting, or they were part of it, or they have heard rumors about who did the shooting."

    The multi-agency operation was headed by Buffalo's Narcotics Unit and SWAT Team assisted by Amherst's SWAT Team and Flex Unit and the State Police SWAT Team. The drug bust was headed by Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda; Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards;

    Flex Unit Inspector Michael F. Gaspar; Capt. Mark R. Maraschiello, SWAT commander; as well as narcotics unit lieutenants Lyon, John C. Eberhart and Steven J. Nicosia.

    Mayor Byron W. Brown was expected to hold a news conference later today to announce the formation of the Buffalo Police Department's new narcotics tip line for residents to report illegal drug activity.

    The number is 847-2255, and it goes into operation at 9 a.m. Monday.

    Thursday, reporters and photographers observed four raids -- at 95 Wohlers Ave., 61 Koons Ave. and lower apartments at 427 Grant St. and 1350 Kensington Ave. Other raids were conducted at 341 15th St., 97 Fay St. and 317 Jewett Ave.

    In the afternoon raid at 61 Koons, SWAT officers smashed the wooden front door and rushed inside. One occupant tried to jump from a second story window, but officers pulled him back inside, his arms flailing.

    Two video cameras were hidden inside pine trees on the lawn in front of the quaint two-story brown brick house. They're part of a sophisticated video surveillance system set up to allow drug dealers inside to track the movements of their customers and police.

    "This is very high-tech. We don't see this very often," said Detective David Sugg, after police tore down the wires attached to the cameras, disconnecting the surveillance system, which was no match for the speed of Thursday's raid. "Those cameras can see all the way down the street -- both ways -- so they can decide who they want to sell to."

    The blitz concluded shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday. In addition to the seven houses raided Thursday, 15 search warrants were executed Tuesday with 31 arrests. Sixteen more were completed Wednesday, yielding 34 more arrests.

    Tuesday's raids included: 126 St. Louis St., upper and lower; 15 Ivy St.; 39 Woltz Ave.; 348 Winslow Ave., lower; 76 Swinburne St., lower; 130 Sears St., lower; 90 Lombard St.; 696 Hopkins St., rear; 270 Parkdale Ave., upper; 330 Parkdale Ave., lower; 7 Langmeyer Ave.; 56 C. St.; 359 Bissell Ave; and 39 Laurel St.

    On Wednesday, police raided 13 Dart St., upper and lower; 34 Goemble Ave., upper; 111 Goemble Ave., upper; 188 Coit St.; 1399 Broadway, lower; 25 Rommel, lower; 1245 Sycamore St., lower and upper; 91 Koons Ave., lower and upper; 122 Gibson St., lower; 225 Smith St., upper; 148 Breckenridge St.; 196 Albany St., lower; and 109 Gittere St., upper. A street-level patrol arrest for 3.5 pounds of marijuana and more than $5,000 cash was also made at 2317 Bailey Ave. on Wednesday, police reported.

    "The word out on the street is that Buffalo is very hot with narcotics raids and no one knows who is going to be next," Sugg said.

    e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com and vthomas@buffnews.com

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