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Drug raid: One arrested

paraphernalia confiscated

October 16, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Before daybreak, the five members of the team gather in a dirt lot here to plan the final details of the morning's operation.

An ongoing investigation of an alleged drug dealer in this city has come down to a search-warrant raid that will last only minutes — at least that is the plan.

The members of the newly formed Street Interdiction Team know anything can happen when confronting an alleged drug-pusher, and that is on their minds as they watch the sun rise over the Valley.

At 7 this morning, in full riot gear, the team loaded into a van two blocks from where they would conduct its operation.

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By 7:10 the raid was over, the suspect was taken into custody, and — team members alleged — one less dealer was on the streets.

This morning's operation by SIT highlights the work done by the special unit. Its mission is to target career criminals, violent gang members and probation and parole violators involved in street-level drug dealing.

SIT is made up of special agents from the El Centro, Calexico and Brawley police departments, the county Sheriff's Office and the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

With this morning's raid, the unit arrested 46-year-old Abelardo Fimbres on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He was expected to be booked into the county jail.

Inside Fimbres' apartment in the 400 block of Walnut Avenue, agents found 12 syringes and other drug-related materials. By presstime agents also found what was thought to be residue from illegal narcotics.

Fimbres was alleged to be pushing heroin, agents said.

Whether the residue found was heroin would be determined by tests, agents said.

A second substance thought to be methamphetamine also was found and would be tested.

Agents were continuing to search the apartment at 8 this morning.

Along with Fimbres, a woman and three children were in the apartment. As of presstime, the woman had not been taken into custody but was questioned.

No information on Fimbres' relationship with the woman or the children was available this morning.

Agents said the operation this morning capped an investigation likely started by a tip received by law enforcement officials regarding activity at the apartment.

Tony Lain, SIT commander assigned to the unit from the state BNE, said an informant was used to determine if drugs were being sold at the apartment.

Once intelligence was gathered regarding alleged drug activities, the team sought a search warrant.

At 6 this morning the team gathered near the apartment for an hour-long final briefing on the planned raid.

In the moments before the operation, Agent Dub Perkins of the El Centro Police Department said there is a bit of nervousness before such a raid.

"You can even say it is fearful to a certain extent," he said, adding team members readying for an operation are "very alert and very aware of what is going on."

In this case, team members knew Fimbres has a criminal history that includes a conviction for robbery, and arrests on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and intent to cause great bodily harm.

Shortly after 7, the agents drove to the apartment. In a tight line, the group of five moved toward the door.

"Police, get down on the ground!" one of the agents called out.

Lain next threw an explosive device used as a scare tactic off to the side of the home. The thunderous explosion rattled the neighborhood.

Agents then, backed by the element of shock, used a battering ram to break inside the apartment, entering with guns out, ready for anything that might occur.

Nothing did.

Fimbres was taken into custody without incident and agents started a search of the apartment.

Lain said when the operation was over agents would place a sticker on the door, identifying the apartment as a site where drugs are allegedly sold. The idea of such a sticker is to keep the community alert.

"The whole mission of the SIT team is to decrease crime and at the same time increase the quality of life in the Imperial Valley," Lain said.

Along with Lain and Perkins, the other members of the team are Gary Brenes of the Brawley Police Department, Richard Sotelo of the Calexico Police Department and Justin Matus of the Sheriff's Office.

Those wanting to contact SIT with information regarding illegal drug activity can call 339-6333.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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