Fugitive arrests overload Cumberland jail
Posted August 9, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — Federal, state and local authorities arrested 167 people this week in a series of raids around Cumberland County, and authorities said Friday they had to halt the raids when the county jail couldn't handle any more inmates.
The "Operation Blue Thunder" raids were conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and focused on people wanted for offenses such as assault, robbery, narcotics violations, property crimes, weapons offenses and probation violations. The operation also led to 223 warrants being served and the seizure of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and three illegal video poker machines, authorities said.
“Operation Blue Thunder has sent a loud and clear message to the criminals: If you commit a crime, you cannot hide in our communities,” Scott Parker, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said in a statement.
Inspector Brandon Taylor of the U.S. Marshals Service said the raids could have continued for several more days but had to stop when the Cumberland County Detention Center ran out of room.
"With that influx of fugitives, the jail staff was at its maximum. They couldn't take any more," Taylor said. "We've never conducted an operation this large before."
The county jail has 568 beds, but it was jammed with 730 inmates by the end of Wednesday.
"Any time you have an overload or larger number of people than you have beds for, you're going to have to be innovative," Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said.
The county is working to add 300 beds to the jail.
Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said he's not concerned about any backlog in area courts because of the raids.
Taylor said many of those arrested were glad not to be on the run any longer.
"They're living the life of a fugitive, and many of the guys, when we arrested them, were ... so relieved," he said. "That's what they tell us, anyway, because they're tired of looking across their shoulder, staying in the house, going place to place."
Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock said Operation Blue Thunder demonstrates that law enforcement agencies can work together to make communities.
"This important criminal roundup serves notice to criminals that law enforcement agencies will devote the necessary resources and personnel to ensure that our streets are safe from criminal predators," Medlock said in a statement.
Other agencies participating in the raids include the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, the Hope Mills Police Department, the Spring Lake Police Department, the State Highway Patrol, the State Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of the Army Civilian Police, the state Division of Adult Corrections and Cumberland County Alcohol Beverage Control Law Enforcement.
The raids follow similar operations led by the U.S. Marshals Service in other North Carolina counties. Since August 2012, marshals have arrested 101,822 fugitives and cleared 123,090 warrants, authorities said.