‘It's the police! Open the door!’: Law enforcement round up, 'cuff criminals
CREATED Dec. 17, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There’s a warrant out for their arrest -- and they could be living next to you. They are thieves, burglars and other fugitives, wanted by law enforcement who try to stay off the radar. That is, until now. The U.S. Marshals Service granted KGUN9 News behind-the-scenes access as officers rounded up fugitives in Tucson.
Early one morning before the sunrise, law enforcement geared up for the day ahead by slipping on bulletproof vests, testing Tasers and checking cartridges.
“Nothing's more nerving than when you get somewhere and it doesn't work,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Leyva told KGUN9. “Murphy plays a lot into our jobs so we just try to take a lot of the Murphy out.”
Leyva, part of a team of more than a dozen federal agents, local police officers and others, hit Tucson's south side streets in a targeted and intense effort to round up offenders wanted for felonies. This is "Operation Grinch Stopper."
“We're focusing on fugitives that have a criminal history or that have warrants for robbery, burglary, larceny, shoplifting,” he explained.
On the team: the Marshals Service, Tucson Police, Oro Valley Police, ICE and others.
With unmarked cars, they meet at a shopping center parking lot to plan what they hope would be the first arrest of the day.
On foot, the teams headed to the address of a suspected robber. Surrounding the man's home, it took less than five minutes to find and handcuff him.
KGUN9 reporter Kevin Keen asked Leyva afterward, “It looked so easy. Was it?” “I wouldn't say it looks easy,” he answered. “I think any time you do your homework and you do a good job of working up your case, knowing all the players, knowing the family, knowing the person you're looking for and how operates -- it's going to go easy.”
On this morning, that "homework" is already complete. Months of surveillance, interviews and investigations are detailed in paperwork that’s reviewed before each arrest.
The team then jumps to the next address. But this time, the parole violator is not home. That happens, though this task force specifically started early in the morning to catch people at home or sleeping.
This time, the woman -- a suspected thief -- is hauled away in handcuffs without incident. Leyva said some fugitives fight back or run, which everyone needs to be prepared for and is one reason so many officers are involved. There is strength and safety in numbers, Leyva explained, when dealing with potentially armed and dangerous people.
The team then pursues another fugitive, who isn't at the address listed. But something leads the team to another home.
At that mobile home, an officer yelled at the door, "It's the police! Open the door! Open it or I'm ripping it off!"
With weapons drawn, they spotted their man -- a suspected thief. Moments later, he’s in handcuffs.
In a few hours, the team grabbed three of five "Grinches.” They’re suspected thieves, burglars and others now off Tucson's streets.
“If we don't arrest somebody for one of these warrants, they may do the same crime to somebody and maybe ruin their holiday or may hurt somebody,” Leyva said.
Operation Grinch Stopper took place over several days across the state last week. The Marshals Service reported officers nabbed 143 fugitives statewide, including 38 arrests in Tucson.