Operation Urban Strike rounds up suspects in Etowah County drug cases

Law enforcement officers from Etowah County set out before dawn Wednesday morning with 94 warrants.They visited homes throughout the county, as well as parts of neighboring counties, to search for 63 people wanted in Operation Urban Strike.Sheriff Todd Entrekin said 30 people were in custody by the afternoon.{} Investigators served 46 of their warrants.The first bang on a front door was at 5:30 a.m.{} Deputies woke up many of the suspects."We get them at home," Entrekin said."A lot of them, they do stay up all night, but they tend to go back to their nest, and stay there, but hopefully we catch them on the roost before they leave the house."The goal is also to find the suspects off-guard.{} The element of surprise can make things safer for officers, but the investigators still go out in teams of about a dozen.By circling a house they can keep people from escaping.{} One team caught a suspect by a back window--he climbed out of the house and into a pair of handcuffs.Another suspect answered the front door and immediately surrendered.{} There was no need for a dozen officers there, but Entrekin said there are plenty of times when they need the full team to provide protection from potentially dangerous suspects."You don't know, even though it's 5 o'clock in the morning, [if a suspect has] been up for two or three days, that they're paranoid.{} You don't know what's on the other side of the door," Entrekin said."An officer is in danger every time they enter that house or that dwelling."Derek Lynn Pierce concerned the Drug Task Force the most of the suspects.{} The officers intended for him to be the first target Wednesday, but Entrekin said investigators saw some activity Tuesday that forced them into action early.Officers found Pierce barricaded in his Rainbow City home with $20,000 worth of methamphetamine."The sheer volume of narcotics that he had, though, in such a relatively high-end part of the county, are pretty concerning," task force commander Rob Savage said."When we went in early yesterday morning, he was actually hitting the pipe as we went through the door.{} You see the type of stuff.{} He was literally out of his head."Investigators also seized nearly $17,000 dollars cash, more than a dozen firearms, and more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition.{} Savage said Pierce is a doomsday prepper, who sells drugs to be able to purchase the weapons.{} Investigators said Pierce does not have an extensive criminal record, but investigators learned many of the guns are stolen.{} Pierce will face charges related to the stolen weapons as well."These are high power rifles, they're very sophisticated weapons.{} I know everybody has a right to bear arms, but we don't need folks that are drug dealers, with this type of weaponry." Sheriff Entrekin said."We don't need it for public safety, for law enforcement, for anybody," he said.It was a long day for the deputies, police officers, district attorney investigators, U.S. Marshals, and federal agents.However, the sheriff said most of these law enforcement officers are "adrenaline junkies" who love these operations."They enjoy going out and catching these folks, they enjoy taking the drugs off the street, and I do.{} After 36 years, I still get excited when I see these guys do these round ups and leaving out of here in the morning," Entrekin said."It's exciting to see them with the enthusiasm to go and make our streets safer."Investigators also seized drugs and paraphernalia during the round up, and discovered a couple of meth cooks.