Three arrested in pot garden, 'shot house' raids

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

COVINGTON -- Acting on resident complaints, the Covington/Newton County Special Investigations Unit recently made arrests in connection with cultivation of marijuana and unlawful sales of alcohol.

SIU Commander Lt. Philip Bradford said his unit received word that the resident of 45 Ellis Road was allegedly growing marijuana and in late September agents raided the location. Ellis Road is located near the intersection of Gum Creek and Macedonia Church roads.

"Agent Brandon Raines and myself went out and crawled up through the woods where we could see the property and did see marijuana plants growing in a garden area out behind the house," Bradford said, adding that a search warrant for the property was obtained following that sighting.

The search warrant was served on Sept. 22 and Walter Williams, 57, and his son-in-law, Steven Black, 27, were both arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute and cultivation of marijuana.

"They had a grow going in back of the house and the plants were about 8 feet tall," Bradford said. "We also discovered an indoor grow in one of the outbuildings where they had rigged up lights and an irrigation system. They had about six to 10 plants growing inside."

Both Williams and Black had knowledge of the growth of the marijuana, Bradford said.

Also, SIU agents served a warrant Friday at an alleged "shot house" at 3126 Bohannon St.

Arrested and charged with two counts of sale of alcohol without a license and sale of alcohol on Sunday was Anthony "A.J." Brown, 45.

Bradford said Brown was arrested in the front yard without incident.

"We went inside and seized a small quantity of beer and liquor from the residence," Bradford said, adding that the investigation into illegal activity at the house was initiated due to complaints from residents.

Brown rents the house from property owner Sheriff Ezell Brown, who said he also had been told by a citizen that illegal activity had been taking place at the house.

"I questioned the tenant and he denied any wrongdoing, so I got with the city of Covington and asked the city to pursue this if there was any suspected wrongdoing," he said. "They investigated and an arrest was made."

Brown said he has encouraged area residents to be on the lookout for any illegal activity.

"I, along with others who own houses in the community, have no knowledge or can't substantiate that there's something going on until it is brought to our attention," he said. "No man is above the law. I condone no wrongdoing, period."

Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said it had been known for sometime what A.J. Brown was allegedly doing at the house.

"It was fairly low-key in comparison to some other shot houses we've dealt with in the past," Cotton said, adding that it is extremely difficult to gather evidence in this type of case.

"Unlike a drug house, when somebody gets in trouble as a drug user (or buyer), they want to blame the drug dealer and they'll turn them in. But for a shot house, why would a buyer turn them in? Other than selling alcohol on Sundays and out of a house, it's not an illegal activity. It doesn't carry the stigma of a drug house unless you're in the community living around it that doesn't like it, and then it's as bad as anything else," the chief said.

Cotton said cleaning up crime in residential communities is a high priority for his department.

"We've done a lot of work in this neighborhood and care about the quality of life there," he said. "This is one more example of our response to the community's needs."