COVINGTON - He may have adopted the name Superman, but he was no match for the Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit.
SIU Commander Lt. Philip Bradford said his unit arrested Tommy Lee Smith, also known as Tony Smith, also known as Superman, 42, of 106 Valley St. in Newborn and charged him with two counts of sale of cocaine.
"Newton County law enforcement has thrown some kryptonite upon him," Bradford quipped, adding that Superman was well-known in the drug community.
"Everything he owns either has the name Superman or a Superman sticker on it," Bradford said.
He knows this because on Feb. 11 SIU executed a search warrant at Smith's Valley Street home, located in an area known locally as The Settlement, near the intersection of Ga. Highways 142 and 213 where the old Newborn chicken plant was located.
"We had done some undercover buys. Our investigation lasted about two months," Bradford said, adding that Smith's activities had been a bane to the community for some time and citizen complaints had been received by the Newton County Board of Commissioners which, in turn, had passed on the concerns to Sheriff Ezell Brown.
"We told Sheriff Brown we already had an active drug investigation going on in Newborn," Bradford said.
Brown said he was glad the arrest had been made.
"This is one of the many hot areas in the county that we've had problems with and we're going to continue to try to rid all of these areas of drugs or push those dealers out of the county. That's our hope," the sheriff said.
Bradford said the property belonging to Smith was "so cluttered" that his men did not find any cocaine the day of the search warrant, but they had enough to make an arrest based on the undercover buys.
"We had made several buys of crack cocaine and it's all on video," he said. "Also, he was arrested back in August by a Newton County deputy and charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and was on probation. Now, he'll have to serve all of that time plus whatever he gets on these two charges we made."
Bradford went on to say that February was a busy month for SIU and told of a second series of arrests made on Feb. 19.
The unit executed a search warrant at 12617-A Brown Bridge Road, a duplex located near Salem Road.
"This was a quick investigation. We had made a few undercover purchases of marijuana from the suspect at this location. He had some cocaine, but we had been buying weed from him," Bradford said.
The search warrant was executed around 11 a.m. and officers woke Jonathan Lightner, 19, and a friend sleeping on his sofa, Zachary Oglivie, 18, of a Stanton Road address in Conyers.
"We found cocaine and marijuana and arrested them. Lightner was charged with possession with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana, less and an ounce. Oglivie was charged with possession of marijuana less than an ounce," he said.
Bradford said the officers were in undercover cars, so there were no marked vehicles on the premises, and while they were searching the house and making the arrests, customers began arriving.
"We told them to go away, but they just wouldn't take no for an answer. They started knocking on the door like they were going to break it down, yelling, 'I came to get my stuff. I know you got some,'" Bradford said. "One guy even sent Lightner a text message saying he was on the way to pick up some drugs and Lightner text-messaged him back saying, 'I'm out. I'm not at home. Don't come by,' but that guy shows up anyway, beating the door down."
Bradford said it soon became apparent this was an opportunity that shouldn't go to waste, so they began arresting customers as well.
"We'd talk to them through the door enough to make the case. The charge was criminal attempt to possess or purchase. We'd broker a supposed deal with them and wound up arresting eight other people. We stayed out there most all day long," Bradford said. "Most of the customers were from Rockdale County and had followed Lightner when he moved down here and set up shop."
Eric Duncan Lawrence, 40, of 630 Fifth Ave., was arrested by SIU agents in the Jamestown community on Feb. 27.
"Eric tries to be a slick doper and has properties and stuff in his father's name," Bradford said, adding that he was a carpenter by trade and at the time of his arrest was renovating two trailers at 1010 Oak St., also in the Jamestown community, for rental property.
Over the period of three months, undercover agents made several buys from Lawrence. "When we'd go out to do buys, we never knew which trailer he was going to be at or where you would make your buy," Bradford said.
Because of not knowing exactly where Lawrence might be at the time a search warrant was served, Bradford said the decision was made to serve three warrants.
"We rallied about 30 officers and deputies from Covington/Newton County S.W.A.T., the Newton County Sheriff's Office and SIU and executed a search warrant at all three places at the same time," he said.
Lawrence was found in one of the trailers he was renovating with what Bradford described as "a substantial amount of crack cocaine," and was charged with trafficking in cocaine.
"Trafficking is the largest charge you can get," Bradford said, adding that Lawrence had been known to be involved in drugs for a long time as well as having other run-ins with the law.
SIU was able to seize three automobiles which were "fruits of the crime," Bradford said.
"This was not all we did, but these were good arrests for the unit in February," he said. "They will impact our community, which is what we strive to do - make an impact and a difference in the community."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.