Drugs, cash, stolen weapons seized

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2007

WINDSOR – Two Washington County men are in Bertie-Martin Regional Jail under a combined $1.6 million cash bond on drug charges following a chase here Wednesday that damaged a pair of law enforcement vehicles.

Mitchell Swain, 40, of 316 Jefferson Street in Plymouth and 47-year-old Stephen Knight of 507 Wilson Street in Plymouth were arrested after law enforcement officials from Bertie and Washington counties were able to perform a “rolling roadblock” of Swain’s vehicle as it traveled south on NC 45 in Washington County.

Both men were charged with Level II trafficking in cocaine by possession and by transportation. Swain, held under a $1 million cash bond, was additionally charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and one count of maintaining a vehicle to store, sell and deliver a controlled substance.

Knight’s bond was set at $600,000 cash.

All of the charges are felonies.

The arrests came on the heels of a joint Bertie-Washington County drug investigation of Swain. Law enforcement officers in both counties were aware that a large drug transaction, involving Swain, was to occur on Wednesday at the intersection of NC 308 (Cooper Hill Road) and NC 45 in Bertie County.

Law enforcement officers staked out that remote location and observed the drug transaction. Those officers – the Bertie County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Windsor Police Department and Plymouth Police Department – attempted to perform a traffic stop on Swain’s vehicle following the drug transaction, but instead found themselves involved in a vehicle chase.

“Mr. Swain attempted to elude arrest by not stopping when we attempted to make a routine stop of the vehicle he was operating,” Bertie Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Frank Timberlake said. “Without regard for public safety, he continued to speed away.”

While traveling across the Three Rivers Bridge on NC 45, Timberlake, operating the lead chase vehicle, noticed something being thrown out of the passenger’s side window of Swain’s vehicle.

“It was the crack cocaine just purchased,” Timberlake said in reference to the items being tossed out the window. “Most of it remained on the bridge. We were able to quickly seal off the bridge to other traffic and retrieve the evidence.”

Meanwhile, Swain continued to lead the officers on the chase.

“We were very concerned about the oncoming traffic,” Timberlake noted. “In order to protect their safety, we would back off until the road was clear at which time we would attempt a rolling roadblock.”

Lawmen attempted that maneuver on two occasions, both resulting in damage to vehicles. On the second try, Timberlake was able to gain position on Swain’s van while Washington County Sheriff Chief Deputy Bryan Hardison slipped into the other key spot. Swain’s van and Timberlake’s vehicle collided, causing Swain to lose control of his van, which then crashed into Hardison’s car and then into a guardrail.

Timberlake said the van, an older model, was a total loss. He estimated damages to his and Hardison’s vehicles at $3,000 each.

Following the crash, Swain and Knight, a passenger in the van, were taken into custody. As a result of the motor vehicle accident, both men were treated and released from Bertie Memorial Hospital in Windsor. Neither Timberlake nor Hardison were injured in the accident.

While Timberlake said he was happy to get nine and one-half ounces of crack cocaine off the street, he was equally as ecstatic that innocent motorists were not injured during the chase.

“Nobody likes to see a vehicular chase ensue because of the danger it presents to the public,” Timberlake said. “But when you can end one as quickly, without any injuries, as we did in this instance, it removes the possibility of innocent motorists being placed in harm’s way.”

As a result of the case, law enforcement officers seized Swain’s residence in Plymouth. After obtaining a search warrant for that residence, officers discovered stolen firearms, more than $15,000 in U.S. currency and small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine packaged for sale.

Including the amount of currency found on Swain at the time of his arrest, Timberlake said more than $25,000 in cash was seized.