MPD Shuts Down New Drug House—Police Chief Seeks Fine for Drug House Scofflaw

  • MPD Shuts Down New Drug House—Police Chief Seeks Fine for Drug House Scofflaw

    MPD Shuts Down New Drug House—Police Chief Seeks Fine for Drug House Scofflaw

    The Martinsburg Police Department announced the initiation of one more case under the city’s “Drug House Ordinance” for the rental property at 909 Fountainhead Lane and found the landlord of 122 S. Raleigh Street operating in defiance of an Order of Abatement for a previously recognized Drug House.

    Chief Maury Richards appeared before Martinsburg Chief Magistrate Ella Buckner and obtained an Order of Abatement to address the illegal drug activity at Fountainhead Lane.  The owner of the property has been identified as Fountainhead Limited II, West Virginia Preservation LLC.  Ms. Darby Bolt, the property manager, has begun the process to evict the problem tenant.  She is scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Dale Buck on August 28, 2019 to provide evidence of compliance with the Chief Magistrate’s order to clean up the drug problem on the property.

    The latest successful Drug House case started with an MPD drug investigation led by Corporal Eric Neely.  During the evening of July 15th, after gathering information that the 909 Fountainhead Lane apartment was the location of a crack cocaine manufacturing and selling operation, Corporal Neely, assisted by Patrolmen Rodney Crawford and Craig Phelps, set up a surveillance outside the apartment.  After observing suspicious activity going in and out of the residence, the officers conducted a traffic stop, recovering 3.2 grams of Crack Cocaine which had been just purchased from a subject in the apartment.    A passenger in the vehicle, Liban A. Sheik-Hyusuf, 39, was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver Crack Cocaine.

    Corporal Neely immediately obtained a search warrant for the drug-selling location which was executed shortly after the arrest.  Upon gaining entry to the apartment, officers observed evidence of a crack cocaine manufacturing operation in the kitchen and recovered digital scales used for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs, covered with white powder residue.  The tenant, Spencer Derrick Wilson, 65, was issued a criminal citation for Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances.

    On June 10th, 122 S. Raleigh Street, Apartment B had been the location of a Drug House Ordinance violation.  Corporal Neely, Patrolman Crawford, and assisting MPD officers had executed a search warrant during which they recovered approximately $8,000 in illegal drugs, digital scales, and drug packaging materials.  The officers arrested three persons, including the tenant, Danny Lee Bagent, 54, for Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Dangerous Substances.  The landlord, Dennis Grove, was found to be in violation of the Drug House Ordinance and ordered to take measures to abate the problem.  Mr. Grove notified Chief Richards that action had been taken to evict and remove the problem tenant by June 30th.

    Corporal Neely continued to monitor the location and on July 23rd, Neely, along with MPD Sergeants Adam Albaugh and Andrew Garcia, conducted a follow-up investigation after receiving new citizen complaints of continued illegal drug activity coming out of the same apartment.  The officers knocked on the door and were met by Danny Lee Bagent, the tenant who had been arrested last month and was supposed to have already been evicted.  Bagent told the officers that he had been allowed to stay in the apartment, in violation of the Drug House order, after paying Mr. Grove more money.  During the interview, the officers alertly observed signs of extensive illegal drug activity within the apartment and returned to the police station to obtain a search warrant.  Upon entry, Neely, Albaugh, and Garcia found further evidence of drug activity and issued Bagent a criminal citation for Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances.  The officers reported “occupants living in squalor” inside.  The slum-like conditions included roach and bedbug infestation which has been reported to the Planning Department.  Deputy Chief George Swartwood stated that the drug house enforcement and follow-up investigations are, “outstanding examples of the skill and the teamwork between our Patrol and Detective Units.”

    Chief Richards reacted strongly to the landlord’s defiance of the ordinance.  “Willful failure to comply with our City’s ordinances is totally unacceptable,” stated Richards.  “MPD always seeks cooperation with property owners, but if they choose to permit drug activity to continue, we can go another route.  This landlord is already in violation for 30 days and counting.  I will be requesting that Mr. Grove be fined for this obstruction,” the Martinsburg Chief added.  Under the provisions of the Drug House Ordinance, a defendant may be fined by the Municipal Court for intentionally failing to implement reasonable measures to abate the problem.  The amount of the fines can range between $100 and $1,000 per offense and each day a violation continues is considered to be a separate and distinct offense.

    The Drug House Ordinance is an important component of the Martinsburg Police Department’s community-policing strategy and a powerful drug-fighting tool.  Since its adoption in 2016, MPD has utilized the ordinance to shut down 54 drug houses and repeat calls-for-service at these locations have been reduced by 90%.  To fight the drug problem, Huntington, Parkersburg, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Wheeling, Buckhannon, and Elkins have enacted similar drug house ordinances based on Martinsburg’s.