SEQUATCHIE, Tenn. — The police sergeant pulls up alongside the mobile home’s porch, easing on the brakes.
Tires crunch the gravel and dirt driveway that runs through this small trailer park. A chorus of barks swells as dogs converge from behind other trailers.
“Is Tammie home?” Sgt. Kevin McNabb asks the woman on the porch.
“Yeah, she’s home,” the woman replies, jerking a thumb toward the trailer just as a line of five more cruisers pulls up behind the Marion County Sheriff vehicle.
After a knock on the door and a brief, muffled conversation, Tammie Canfield is in handcuffs and headed to the Marion County Jail.
Ms. Canfield was one of at least 28 Marion County residents swept up in a felony drug indictment roundup Thursday afternoon. Police still were hunting down suspects on the 37-person indictment list Thursday evening.
A yearlong investigation by Marion County Detectives Chad Johnson and Gene Hargis with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms led to the indictments.
The offenses range from possession to sale of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription pills and crack cocaine.
Police with Jasper, Kimball, Whitwell, Powells Crossroads, South Pittsburg, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted in the sweep.
Those arrested Thursday and others being sought face a range of felony drug possession and distribution charges, some of which may bring federal charges once the investigation is complete, Detective Johnson said.
Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said the sweeps “make a statement” about efforts to fight drug crime.
“The drug trade brings property crime and domestic crime,” Sheriff Burnett said.
The sudden, one-day sweeps come about in secret. That’s needed in a rural community where nearly everyone knows everyone else. Once a few suspects are arrested, word gets around.
Marion County Detective Beth Schindel stood with other officers looking over sheets of mugshots laid on the trunk of a patrol car. She marked through pictures of those already brought in by midmorning.
Police hauled in six suspects in the first 90 minutes of Thursday’s sweep. As the day drags on, the some targets get harder to find, Detective Schindel said.
But sometimes, police get a break.
“Some will call and say, ‘Are you looking for me?’” the detective said of previous sweeps she’s worked.
Mostly the police try to surprise. Early mornings are best and arriving in force can help prevent a suspect from running.
Police may not have grabbed every person on the indictment Thursday, but Sgt. McNabb wasn’t worried.
“The rest will buy time until they get caught,” he said. “They’ll all get caught eventually.”
Sgt. McNabb said most suspects may hide, but few run.
“All of their friends, family are in Marion County,” the sergeant said. “They’ve got nowhere else to go.”
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...