Authorities swoop down on Carthage in drug and weapons bust

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) -- A swarm of federal, state, county and city law enforcers descended on Carthage Wednesday in a large-scale drug and weapons bust, but authorities were not specific about the operation.

Helicopters flew overhead as agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- along with officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Carthage police -- probed areas throughout the city.

Carthage has about 11,000 people, 10 miles northeast of Joplin.

"I can tell you it involves a very large scale and multijurisdictional investigation into the illegal narcotics trafficking and illegal firearms trafficking primarily in southwest Missouri," said Chris Whitley, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City.

Residents in one neighborhood said they noticed SWAT officers entering a house about 6 a.m. The officers removed the front door and eventually emerged with materials from the home, witnesses said.

Don Stearnes, a Carthage councilman who lives down the street from the home, said a man and women had lived in the rental house about a month.

"There was no suspicious activities around the area," Stearnes said.

Sgt. Kent Casey of the state patrol said no information about the operation would be released before a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

"The investigations continue to go on," Casey said. "We can't tell you anything because people might be injured."

A temporary headquarters for the operation were set up at the Carthage Police Department, with a mobile command unit of the Missouri Department of Public Safety on the parking lot. Across the street, an Immigration and Naturalization Service 50-passenger bus was parked next to another large Greene County Sheriff's Department bus. A smaller INS van was also on the lot.

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