Operation Option Three

At 4:00 AM on July 9, 2009, more than 70 law enforcement officers from nine different agencies gathered at the Fair Barn outside of Jena, LA.  This day was the culmination of a 19 month investigation into illegal drug activities in LaSalle Parish.  The mobilization was named “Operation Option Three” by the Sheriff.

Sheriff Franklin had given drug dealers and users in the Parish three options; to quit, move or go to jail.  These options were the slogan on his campaign literature.  After he was elected Sheriff of LaSalle Parish in October of 2007, he was allowed to assume operation of the Sheriff’s Office. At that time, he launched the investigation that resulted in the arrest of a high-level drug dealer and others during pre-dawn raids called “Operation Option Three”.

As he stood before the multi-jurisdictional task force to prepare them for the ensuing narcotics raids, Sheriff Franklin explained the day’s mission. “We’re going into neighborhoods that are being controlled by drug dealers,” Franklin said. “I want to give the neighborhoods back to law abiding citizens and create a safe environment for their families.”

The targets of “Operation Option Three” were a high-level drug trafficker and money launderer, those in his drug ring and other lower-level drug dealers. Narcotic investigators with the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Department, led by Chief Narcotics Deputy, Robert Terral, along with assistance from the Louisiana State Police, had determined that 37-year-old Darren “Nunni” Dewayne Brown and his ring were supplying about 80% of the illegal narcotics sold in LaSalle, Grant and Catahoula parishes. Brown reportedly would bring in large supplies of drugs from Houston, Texas, and then distribute them to his “lieutenants” who would then distribute them to lower-level dealers.

Brown allegedly had an operation that delivered illegal drugs in eight Louisiana parishes and arranged for drugs to be trafficked from Houston to as far east as North Carolina.   The business was so lucrative that Brown’s wife once deposited $30,000 in the bank in one week, while deposits of $10,000 were commonplace.  Narcotics agents began investigating Brown after receiving information that he lived an extravagant lifestyle while reporting poverty level income.

The operation involved two different “strikes” with the first beginning at 5 AM.  Five different teams hit five targets at the exact same time. Those five suspects were chosen for either their violent or aggressive history or the level of drug trade in which they were involved, according to officers.

State Police SWAT teams made up two of the entry teams; two teams were from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force; and the fifth team was headed by the Pineville Police SWAT team.  Each team included entry officers and search teams. Once the entry teams entered the homes and secured the occupants, the search teams entered to gather and document evidence.

The neighborhood remained calm during the complete operation as officers flooded the streets, but officers were prepared for a much more chaotic and adversarial situation should that have occurred. Teams were directed to secure the area, block off the streets and not allow vehicles or foot traffic to penetrate the barriers. Deputies from the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office could not typically make an arrest in the target area without being swarmed by foot traffic and people trying to interrupt their work. “Today we were prepared for a lot of that, but it has been absolutely quiet,” Franklin said later that morning. “That shows you the caliber of people we put in jail today. The people in this community want their community back, and we gave it back to them today.”

A dozen arrests were made early that morning and another suspect turned himself in to authorities that night. More arrests are expected to be made in connection with the investigation as officers locate the suspects or when suspects return to the area.  Officers seized a Hummer, a Mercedes Benz and other expensive vehicles, ATVs, a home and the barber shop and game room operated by Brown.

Officers from the ATF, FBI, State Police, Probation and Parole, Sheriff’s Task Force, U.S. Marshal’s Task Force, Pineville Police SWAT team, Concordia Sheriff’s Department, and the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office participated in “Operation Option Three”.