The local police drug task force took down three drug houses in three cities in three icy days.
Pendleton police chief Stuart Roberts said the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team made two arrests Tuesday in Pendleton, then Wednesday netted 10 arrest at a site in Milton-Freewater. And on Thursday morning they were at a home in Stanfield and arrested another two.
“It was an extremely slow roll to Milton-Freewater yesterday,” Roberts said, because of the weather. “But they got the job done.”
Roberts said police at all three locations served search warrants and seized drugs, primarily methamphetamine but also heroin. The searches also yielded guns, as well as a cache of stolen goods in Milton-Freewater, which the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
The raids in Milton-Freewater and Stanfield required the Oregon State Police SWAT team due to the threat of certain suspects. Even so, Roberts said, the team of police did not beat down doors, but instead surrounded homes and called out for occupants to surrender.
Roberts said the more cautious approach has gained traction nationwide. The tactic reduces liability but takes longer and comes with a cost. At the Milton-Freewater and Stanfield raids, he said, people inside worked to get rid of evidence before police entered.
Roberts, who chairs the drug team’s board of directors, said the three sites sold drugs independently of each other and each had their own supply source. The investigations that culminated in this week’s arrests took three to six months. He stressed the SWAT team was essential to this week’s arrests.
The drug team assesses threats before a bust, Roberts explained, and the investigations revealed “some pretty dangerous characters.” Three people at the home in Milton-Freewater and one in Stanfield “were self-professed gang members,” he said.
The ice storm that hit the region Tuesday night was not enough to call off the raids. Troopers throughout Oregon serve on the SWAT team, so once the drug task force coordinates with state police and sets dates, backing out represents a significant waste of time and money.
The sheriff’s office online jail roster shows police arrested 10 people Wednesday at 122 S.E. Third Ave., Milton-Freewater, including Salvador Duran Saucedo Jr., 27, and Terry Diaz, 27, for possession and delivery of meth. They and eight others also face the misdemeanor charge of frequenting a place where drugs are used.
Umatilla County Circuit Court records show Diaz lives at the 122 S.E. Third address and has a history of driving violations going back to 2008. But in 2016 he faced misdemeanors for committing harassment and attempted assault on March 5. The Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case on Jan. 12.
Three witnesses saw Diaz assaulting the victim on the side of a road, according to the state’s motion to dismiss, but those witnesses now may not be able to identify defendant. And the officer who responded and arrested Diaz is facing charges and cannot be a witness for the state.
The motion does not identify the officer, but the state conceded it cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Court records show the state also dismissed a misdemeanor fleeing charge in early 2016 against Saucedo.
The roster also shows the sheriff’s office arrested one person at the home — Jaime Torres, 21, for possession of burglary tools, a felony. He also has an on-going criminal cases in Umatilla County for possession of meth.