BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A two-year investigation led to the arrests of more than two dozen, the recovery of weapons and multiple drug charges.
Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis says 27 people have been arrested on numerous violations in a sweep in Goose Creek Thursday night.
"The reason I'm announcing this today is because this work has been paid off," Lewis said. "These people are responsible for a number of gun and drug violations in Goose Creek and we needed to get them off the streets."
The majority of arrests and warrants were the result of an ongoing criminal investigation in the area, Lewis said.
Berkeley County Chief Deputy Mike Cochran said additional arrests were made for people with outstanding bench warrants who were in proximity to the arrest area.
The remaining suspect, 40-year-old Rico Reid, also known as "Deuce," who Lewis described as a "big target," remains at large, U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said. Reid is wanted for distribution of heroin and other charges, she said.
Lewis says local, state and federal officials worked together to make undercover drug and gun buys in the areas of Howe Hall Road, Old Back River Road and Rutt Lane.
Lewis said the operation launched after authorities received complaints from the Howe Hall and Rutt Road areas.
State Rep. Samuel Lewis got the sheriff's attention after getting lots of complaints from residents about gunshots.
"One particular constituent was trimming the hedges and they found a gun in the hedges and from that point she was afraid to sit on her porch," Lewis said.
Lewis says after the arrests, residents have seen a change and are breathing a little easier.
"The Rutt Road area of Berkeley County has been a problem area for many years," Lewis said. "It has been plagued by gun and drug violence for too long. After assessing the situation, meeting with community leaders and elected representatives, I asked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for assistance due to the level of gun violence involved. Working with ATF, we have been able to target the most serious offenders. It is my hope that the community will be a safer place going forward."
"Law enforcement in South Carolina is getting the job done," U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said. She said agencies are working together on a common mission.
Drake said authorities targeted repeat offenders in the sweep.
Members of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, working in conjunction with SLED, SCHP, SC Probation, Parole &Pardon Services, Goose Creek Police, Hanahan Police, Moncks Corner Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives & the United States Marshals Service served multiple arrest and search warrants on Rutt Lane in the unincorporated area of Goose Creek.
Federal authorities were brought in, he said, to get stiffer sentences.
During the investigation, many stolen firearms were purchased, quantities of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other drugs were purchased from some of those arrested.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Special Agent C.J. Hyman said the core mission was to combat violent crime and called the sweep an "extremely dangerous assignment."
"We're familiar with the shootings and drug-related violence that happened there before so to go in there and risk their lives literally to undertake this investigation is a large task," Hyman said.
Lewis said in one instance, a suspect threw a Molotov cocktail at a deputy, which set a building on fire.
The sheriff says this is only the beginning.
"The next time you're selling drugs or trying to sell a weapon in Berkeley County you better look over your shoulder because we just might be there," Lewis said.
Anyone who knows of Reid's whereabouts is asked to call the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office at 843-719-4465.