Falls cops went hunting for drugs and guns on Thursday morning.
They found both.
With assistance from the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Lewiston Police K-9 Unit, Falls Police Narcotics Intelligence Division detectives swept through the Cataract City streets executing three search warrants, making an equal number of arrests and looking for seven more suspects charged in a 72-count indictment.
“This is where it gets dangerous,” Narcotics Intelligence Division Detective Capt. Ted Weed said as officers and agents approached a rundown home in the 1100 block of 17th Street.
Their target was Wilbert Hayes III, a convicted killer, accused of peddling crack cocaine out of the home. Intelligence reports suggested Hayes might have as many as five guns in the home, and undercover detectives had watched him make a drug sale just a short time before Emergency Response Team officers arrived,
But as the officers broke through the front door of the home they discovered that Hayes had fled.
Left behind, was 2.7 grams of crack cocaine, a shotgun and a loaded 9mm handgun — hidden under a blanket in a baby’s basinet.
“Most of the problems that people have been complaining about (during a recent uptick in violent crime in the city) have been about gun violence,” Falls Police Superintendent Tom Licata said. “Drugs and guns go hand-in-hand and the proof of that is we seized drugs and guns today.” Hayes, 34, 1114 17th St., who was released from state prison after serving six years of a four- to eight-year sentence for a conviction on a charge of second-degree manslaughter, faces two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance under the indictment.
He’ll face additional drug and weapons charges as a result of the seizures at the 17th Street home.
City code enforcement officers condemned the house for occupancy because it had no electrical service.
“Look at what the impact of this is on the neighborhood,” Weed said. “There’s a beautiful home next to (the site of the search warrant execution) and what can they do? The house next door is condemned for no electricity and they’re dealing crack out of it.”
A few blocks away, in the 600 block of 17th Street, officers and agents hit another home, seizing 0.3 grams of crack cocaine, some hydrocodone pills and a small quantity of marijuana.
They arrested Raconda R. Nix, 44, 620 17th St., on the indictment charges and are expected to add two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and an unlawful possession of marijuana charge for the Thursday seizures.
Weed described the defendants in the indictment as “neighborhood dealers.”
“The chief has been getting calls about (the increase in violent crime) but we were working on these cases even before people started complaining,” Weed said.
Officers and agents wrapped-up their sweep at a home in the 2600 block of Walnut Avenue where they seized 12 grams of crack cocaine, some hydrocodone pills and a shotgun.
“I’m very pleased,” Weed said. “If we had seized one gun it would have made it all worth it. Three guns makes it better.”
Chundra D. Davis, 57, 2603 Walnut Ave., was arrested on the indictment charges.
Detectives said she will likely face additional charges of third-, fourth- and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance as a result of the seizures from her apartment.
“I think we did pretty good,” Licata said. “We got some guns off the streets and some drugs off the streets. And my favorite part of the day was the (Walnut Avenue) house when the neighbors came out and thanked us.”
In addition to the three arrests on Wednesday, Weed said eight defendants were previously picked up on the charges in the indictment.
“Hopefully we get a little splash on this and we send the message that Niagara Falls is not a place to come and deal drugs,” Licata said, “and if you do, we’re coming for you.”
The narcotics squad commander, who announced that he will be retiring in seven days and that this had been his “last search warrant execution” in a 29-year law enforcement career, said the search for the remaining sevens suspects is continuing.