Sheila Stogsdill

Special to the Grove Sun

MIAMI - Drug agents served 70 search warrants before dawn this morning in northeast Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.

As of 9 a.m., authorities had 22 suspects in custody, said Mark Woodward, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman.

Automobiles, weapons and drugs were seized. The warrants served were in connection with the sale and possession of methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs, he said.

Three helicopters and 100 law enforcement officers fanned out over Delaware and Ottawa counties, hitting Miami, Grove and Jay and also going into Arkansas and Kansas in "Operation Wardog," Woodward said.

"We have close to half of the suspects in custody," said Eddie Wyant, district attorney. "It was a very successful round-up."

Prior to today, 40 is the most warrants issued in such an OBN sweep, said J.R. Gibson, an OBN agent.

"We have 62 people who sold dope to an undercover police officer on videotape," Gibson said.

The first raid took place at 6 a.m. in an older Miami neighborhood.

"We will not concede any towns or counties to drug dealers and traffickers in Oklahoma," said Darrell Weaver, OBN director.

Weaver said prescription drug abuse and sales is the biggest problem in northeast Oklahoma.

"It's a silent cancer," Weaver said.

Weaver was with agents when they served one warrant shortly before 7 a.m. and arrested Derek McElhaney, 18.

"This is what I am talking about," Weaver said, pointing to eight students standing at a school bus stop about two blocks away watching the agents swarm the house.

"These kids are trying to make something out of their life," Weaver said of the students at the bus stop. "Why aren't these people at work?" he asked about the suspect.

With his hands cuffed, McElhaney brushed tears from his eyes and kissed his 16-year-old girlfriend as his mother shouted to him to keep his head.

In the living room of one of the houses raided was a purple stripper pole surrounded by strobe lights.

"That was a first," Weaver said.

Today's round-up is the first phase of the overall mission in northeast Oklahoma, Weaver said.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Grove Civic Center, 1720 S. Main Street. The purpose of the meeting is to bring the citizens from Ottawa and Delaware counties together with professionals and officials from all walks of life to talk about the drug issues that plague communities, Weaver said.