March 26 • 05:33 PM

Deputies journey to unknown

Illegal drug dealers prompt action from special forces team

December 02, 2009
Editor's note: The following is another in a series of columns by Doug Hunter as he rides along with deputies from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication.

This is part one of this particular ride-along experience. The conclusion will be published in an upcoming issue of the Tri-City Times.

The night of November 24 is just an average night at work until the cell phone rings. On the phone is St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon. His only question is "what time can you be in Marysville?"

"By 11 o'clock," I say. He tells me Lt. Ron Muxlow of the Drug Task Force is planning two raids this evening; that I should call him.

I call the Lieutenant and tell him I can meet him at the jail at 11 p.m. To say what starts out so typically but ends so differently is to put it mildly. All my senses will be called upon this night.

Anxiety rises as I head to Marysville from Detroit up I-94 east. Arriving at the jail at 10:55, Lt. Muxlow meets me at the door and quickly ushers me in. We go to the briefing room.

There sit 12 men in subdued camouflage with full assault body armor. Some of the men have assault rifles, all carried the latest in assault pistols strapped to their thighs.

Each is wearing a black steel helmet with goggles. The uniforms are also black and gray. Underneath is a full suit of body armor. The boots are as the suit—military issue. The belts around their waists and pockets on the uniforms carry everything that might be required in any situation.

Lt. Muxlow introduces me to the force. Some I know, most I don't. In their gear, even the ones I had spent much time with on patrol are not easily recognized. This, I feel, is the way it should be. These honorable men deal with society's worst individuals. Anonymity is the very least we can offer them for their risks and sacrifices.

Sgt. Jim Spadafore stands at the front of the room at a blackboard. On it is a hastily drawn house, two-story with a full basement. The perimeter is marked with Xs. Here, he instructs, will be stationed the SRT (Special Response Team) with the long guns. Meticulously he goes through all the floors of the home. DTF (Drug Task Force) officers are to secure each room.

St. Spadafore carefully explains backgrounds of the suspects who inhabit the house. Suspect A is a seasoned ex-con and gang-banger convicted of armed robbery, assaults with weapons and numerous violent acts since he was a teenager, the Sgt. says. Now in his mid-30s, his stints in prison had not softened this man. Also noted were persons that frequent the home. Their histories are just as violent.

Suspect B, a female, also has a long history of drug abuse and crime. At age 27 she has four children ranging from a 14-year-old daughter to a 6-year-old son. Then the stunning revelation: they will also be in the structure, location unknown in the house at this time. Sgt. Spadafore tells the team to use extreme caution upon entering as the woman is small and resembles a teenager but is capable of violence. "Do not take anything for granted."

He adds a small footnote at the bottom of the blackboard: the house is protect- ed by vicious dogs, pitbulls and equally aggressive boxers.

The sergeant asks if there are any questions. There are few. The team knows the task before them.

I'm instructed to sit in the front seat of the van that carries the DTF and SRT deputies to the staging area. The ride is relatively quiet as each officer focuses on the daunting chore that awaits. Arriving at the staging area, weapons are loaded and checked along with other equipment that will be used. The reality of the moment hits me as Sgt. Spadafore and one of the DTF officers calls me to another vehicle to be fitted for a bullet proof vest. the DTF officer says "this will make you feel better!"

Anxiety rises as I wonder about the event that is about to take place. Not fear, because I know I am with a superb force that will sacrifice their very lives for me. I am humbled to be amongst the bravest of the brave. Pride swells into my heart as I look over these men and I know how fortunate that I and all the citizens of St. Clair County are to have these individuals protecting us from the drug traffickers—those vile creatures who would destroy the lives of others for profit.

With everyone and the equipment checked, we wait for the word to proceed. The voice on the radio is clear and concise: "Subject A not at address." Immediately I recognize the voice, that of a young female I had spent time on patrol with. She and another woman are surveilling the subjects and the locations in question.

Hurriedly, Lt. Muxlow gives the order to the surveillance team to check all places Subject A frequents for his vehicle. Melancholy sets in as we wait for further instructions.

The voice comes back on the radio: "Vehicle not at any other locations."

"Perhaps it's in the repair shop," someone quips, and just possibly he's in the home anticipating a strike, I ponder to myself.

Lt. Muxlow and Sgt. Spadafore make a command decision to continue. With surveillance in place the order is given: "Proceed."

Pulling onto the streets the vehicles douse their lights and the force stealthily exits into the darkness...

If continued police protection is important to you or if you have a story, comment or opinion to share, email Doug at

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