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Additional arrests reported in GC gun raid

GATES – Additional arrests have been reported regarding a joint gun/drug operation in North Carolina and Virginia that led to charges lodged against numerous individuals.

The story first broke Wednesday night on www.roanoke-chowannewsherald.com where, armed to the hilt, a contingent of nearly 40 law enforcement officers from various agencies conducted simultaneous raids at four Gates County residences late Wednesday afternoon, all apparently linked to a rash of gun thefts in the county since mid-April.

Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb reported that the raids in his county netted the arrest of Robert M. Paris, 24 of Gates, who stands charged with possession of a firearm by felon,

possession of a sawed off shotgun and conspiracy to commit a felony. Jordan Hyatt, 19, was also arrested on a total of 10 charges, including felony breaking and entering, possession of firearms and larceny of firearms.

Meanwhile, Suffolk, Va. Police conducted a “buy-bust” of three individuals in a parking lot of that city around 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Arrested there were Dominique Wilkins, 18, Rashawn Goodman, 20, and 29-year-old Anton Harrison, all of Gates.

Wilkins faces numerous federal charges lodged by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, receive stolen property, sale of stolen guns, two counts of conspiracy to commit a

felony and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute were filed against Goodman. Harrison’s charges were possession of a bullet proof vest and conspiracy to commit a felony.

A Gates County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman on Friday said additional charges were filed against four others, including one juvenile, late Wednesday night, including:

Robert Johnson, 22, who was charged with possession of cocaine and simple possession of marijuana.

Peggy Wilkins, 41, larceny of a firearm.

Willie Marie Wilkins, 43, larceny of a firearm.

An unidientified 16-year old was charged with possession of cocaine.

The raids in Gates County were conducted at residences on US 13 North, NC 37 in Gates, Sarem Road and Hackney Road. Webb said a sawed off shotgun, cocaine and marijuana were recovered during the execution of their search warrants in reference to this operation. Two females were also arrested and charged with aiding and abetting.

Sheriff Webb said the raids in his county as well as the Suffolk arrests were all connected to a series of weapons thefts. Those thefts have occurred in Gates County, Hertford County and Pasquotank County as well as in Suffolk, Va. Pistols, shotguns, high-powered hunting rifles and civilian model assault weapons appeared to be popular among the thieves.

“This has been an ongoing investigation for the past six months,” Webb said. “We have been working closely with the Suffolk Police on this as well as the federal ATF folks.”

Webb said other arrests are pending. He added that the investigation revealed that the weapons stolen in Gates County were altered by scratching off the serial numbers and then enter into the illegal gun trade market. Most of those weapons found their way into Virginia, according to the Sheriff.

“From there we believe these weapons have made their way up into the New Jersey and New York area,” Webb said.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, a small army of law enforcement officers gathered at the Hertford County Emergency Management office near Winton to map out their final strategy before making the raids. There, Sheriff Webb issued a warning to those gathered to “be very careful because these guys we’re after are armed.”

Webb added that those being sought for the rash of thefts all have federal and state (North Carolina and Virginia) felony warrants filed against them.

Dividing into four, eight-person teams (plus a fifth squad as back-up), the raids in Gates County went off without major incident. There was a pit bull shot and killed by officers after they entered a residence at 946 NC 37 in Gates.

“Upon entering that residence, the officers were confronted by a pit bull,” Webb said. “After a verbal command failed to scare off the dog, one shot was fired (apparently in the floor) in an effort to frighten the dog, but the dog continued to advance towards the officers in a threatening manner so there was no other recourse than to shoot the animal.”

Several other dogs were safely removed from that residence.

Joining the Gates County Sheriff’s Office were lawmen representing the Ahoskie Police Department, Chowan County Sheriff’s Office, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, Perquimans County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, ALE, Gates County Probation and Parole, NC Wildlife and NC Highway Patrol.

“Our main focus here was to work this case where the stolen weapons were crossing state lines,” said ATF Resident Agent in Charge Teresa Merhige. “This was a well-orchestrated raid…the timing was perfect. This says a lot about how well the different agencies can come together as one.”

During the course of the operation, the agencies coordinated the purchase of a bulletproof vest and eight firearms, which included an AR-15 assault rifle, two 22 caliber pistols, two sawed off shotguns, one 243 caliber

hunting rifle with scope, one 22 caliber rifle and a 45 caliber pistol.

(Suffolk, Va. News-Herald Staff Writer Allison Williams contributed to this story.)