Raiding officers found challenge in steel-fortified drug house

March 26, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

The red-brick East Baltimore rowhouse was a testament to the power of drug peddlers.

Sitting in the middle of one of the city's toughest neighborhoods, the home had become a heavily fortified drug bunker -- shielded with steel screens, metal poles and lattices of two-by-fours bracing the doors and windows.

"It was something I had never seen before," said Sgt. Timothy Devine, a drug officer for more than eight years who raided the home as part of last week's "Operation Midway" drug sweep.

Before police hit the neighborhood, undercover officers had heard all about the house at 2008 Greenmount Ave. They knew people were buying capsules of heroin and vials of cocaine at the house. They knew that the house, one of the busiest drug markets on the block, was a fortress of steel poles, bars and boards.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Sergeant Devine said.

At 2:15 p.m. last Saturday, a squad of drug officers pulled up to the house. Six officers ran up the eight metal steps to the front door. Two officers circled around back. The biggest member of the squad, Officer Dave Brendel, started slamming the front door with 3-foot-long steel battering ram.

Given such treatment, doors usually fly open quickly. This time, it took 60 seconds -- an excruciating amount of time for the officers waiting outside, wondering what was on the other side and whether someone was waiting with a weapon.

Finally, the battering ram blasted the door off its hinges. Still, the door wouldn't budge. The officers had to pull the door aside, prying off boards and moving the door away from a metal pole propped against it.

Several officers ran upstairs. They said they found a suspect trying to flush plastic bags of heroin down a toilet. The officers fished the congealed bags from the bottom of the bowl and arrested Michele Ford, 29, and Rodney Watson, 33, on drug charges.

The undercover officers were stunned by what they saw when the surveyed the house.

The front and back doors and windows on the first floor of the two-story rowhouse had been barricaded with two-by-fours. Steel screens covered the windows. To reinforce the doors, metal poles had been propped against the doors.

Bags, vials and capsules of drugs littered the house. A tally sheet was taped near the back door, not far from a mail slot were the daily and nightly cocaine and heroin deals took place.

"It was one of the most popular places in the neighborhood," Sergeant Devine said. "Not anymore."

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