one faces second-degree murder charge
By Mike Donoghue, Vermont News & Media Correspondent
A pair of young Hartford, Connecticut drug dealers set up shop at a Brattleboro apartment and installed live cameras outside the building to allow them to see if police planned to raid their illegal crack cocaine operation, federal court records maintain.
Turns out the security cameras that streamed live shots into their apartment didn’t help.
Elias Lopez, 18, was arrested after he apparently fled out a basement door at the apartment house at 84 Linden Street on Thursday, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Lopez is facing felony charges of knowingly conspiring to distribute crack cocaine in Windham County in August and with using a firearm during drug trafficking, according to a criminal complaint filed by the ATF in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Friday, August 18. He appeared briefly in federal court in Burlington and Judge Christina Reiss continued the hearing until 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Brattleboro Reformer reported August 21 that Lopez faces second-degree murder charges following the shooting death of Tamico “Mack” Williams, 21, also of Hartford, Conn., March 30 at a Birge Street apartment.
Lopez is one of at least 5 suspects the authorities are interested in as part of the joint federal and state investigation, federal court records show. More criminal charges are expected against him, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy L. Fuller, who filed a detention motion.
The ATF also reported his reported business partner, Jayden Rios, another teenager from Hartford, Conn. was apprehended at the scene, court records show. His age was not provided, but court records called him a “juvenile.”
Vermont authorities have reported a huge ongoing uptick in the number of out-of-state teenagers being recruited — especially by gangs — to come to the Green Mountains for drug trafficking because of the lax state laws and courts.
Vermont, which allowed 16-year-olds and up to be prosecuted in adult court, is in the process of allowing criminals up to age 23 years-old to avoid public criminal prosecutions and penalties. They are treated as “Youthful Offenders” behind closed doors in Family Court, have no ‘juvenile jail’ to be sent to, and may have their cases sealed or expunged, public safety advocates note.
Two Brattleboro area residents, William Roy, 38, and his girlfriend, Addyson Morgan, 26 also were found living at the Linden Street apartment during the raid, the ATF said. Roy and Morgan have been ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Burlington at 1 p.m. Sept. 8 to face felony charges of knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute crack cocaine in Windham County in August.
A fifth person, Michael White, 39, of Brattleboro is due in Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon to face a felony charge of essentially allowing a “Crack House” to operate from his apartment, court records show.
White, who had a signed rental agreement for the 84 Linden Street apartment, is charged with allowing the unlawful storing, distributing or using of controlled substances at the residence, the ATF said in court papers.
Fuller has petitioned the court for a 3-day continuance on the Tuesday hearing. White is lodged without bail on the federal charge at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans Town, prison records show.
Lopez and Rios had between 20 and 30 customers each day stopping by the apartment to buy drugs, according to White and Roy when interviewed after the raid, the ATF affidavit said. Confidential informants worked with the Vermont Drug Task Force making buys during August, records show.
Stacks of cash, estimated to be about $10,000, were found in a locked banker’s bag, while another stash of money in a drawstring bag estimated at a couple thousand dollars was seized, investigators said. Also confiscated were about 1.3 ounces of suspected crack cocaine and a tan-colored Glock 9-mm with an extended magazine, records show. There also were two camera monitors and a tablet in the bedroom as part of the security protection system used by the two Hartford suspects, the ATF said.
The Vermont Drug Task Force and the ATF from Connecticut and Vermont have been investigating the group and the apartment house in recent weeks and were part of the 6 a.m. raid, officials said.
The Linden Street investigation is unrelated to a Brattleboro Police raid the same day on Elliot Street that also netted five defendants, including two more reported dealers from Hartford, Conn., court records show.
As special agents from the ATF entered the front of the Linden Street apartment house Thursday morning, state troopers on the rear perimeter intercepted Rios as he was fleeing from the basement, records show. The ATF said special agents were on the side of the house soon spotted Lopez sitting outside on some nearby stairs and believe he also fled out the basement. Both were taken into custody for officer safety, the ATF said.
Hartford-based ATF Special Agent Daniel Prather, who has investigated street gangs with a national presence and with locally based groups, said the investigation and interviews uncovered a lot about the local drug business. Prather’s sworn affidavit said:
White had leased the apartment for about two years and lived there except for a short period when he was getting substance abuse treatment. White agreed to allow his two friends Roy and Morgan to move into the one-bedroom apartment.
White reported that about the same time Roy and Morgan moved in, Lopez, who he called “Joey” and Rios, who he called “Savage,” also moved into the apartment. The residents reported Lopez and Rios got the bedroom, White slept on the couch and Roy and Morgan had a blow-up mattress.
Neither Lopez or Rios had left the residence for more than a day or two in the previous month, White had maintained, Prather said.
Lopez and Rios had both provided heroin and crack cocaine to White on a regular basis in exchange for being allowed to stay at his residence, the ATF said. White estimated both Lopez and Rios had each provided him with both heroin and crack cocaine at least 10 to 20 times in the prior month, the ATF said.
White also reported both Hartford teens had displayed a gun at various times, often wearing it in their waistbands, the ATF said.
The investigation uncovered that the two out-of-state teenagers would recruit some Brattleboro area residents to be part of the drug business to “work the door” at the apartment, the ATF said in court papers.
The investigation showed — and Roy and White confirmed — drug buyers would come to the apartment in search of illegal drugs, the ATF said. Roy and Morgan mostly, but sometimes White would answer the door, take down the drug orders from prospective customers, go to either Lopez or Rios with the request and they would weigh the drugs on a scale, the court affidavit said. Lopez or Rios would secure the drugs and either turn them over to the buyer personally or provide them to Roy or Morgan to complete the sale, court records show.
The confidential informants indicated Lopez and Rios always had a firearm in their possession or somewhere in their immediate vicinity during the drug sales, the ATF said.