Naked and clutching a loaded syringe and a bag of suspected methamphetamine, a Napa woman didn't get far when she ran from drug agents arriving at a a house in the 2900 block of First Street early Thursday morning.
More police were waiting for Tammie Hernandez, 54, who then put on some clothes, was handcuffed and shuffled into the waiting paddy wagon. Her husband Ferrell Baker, 56, was also arrested on drug charges.
The Bakers were scooped up in a drug sweep by agents looking for 19 other suspects in an undercover sting, dubbed Operation Clean Sweep, that started last December.
Six of the suspects on their list — plus the Bakers — got a rude awakening in a series of early-morning arrests that also netted suspected meth, heroin and unidentified pills, drug paraphernalia and ammunition.
The arrests, which lasted from about 7 to 8:30 a.m., took place in the on Pueblo Avenue, the 500 block of Franklin Street in downtown Napa, 2700 block of Laurel Street, 2200 block of First Street and a motorhome parked in a driveway on Eggleston Street.
Napa Patch rides along
Drug agents, along with sheriff’s deputies, Napa police officers, the SWAT team and sheriff’s paddy wagon set out at dawn Thursday with the goal of making 19 arrests that day.
After serving search and arrest warrants at residences, the officers continued the operation looking for homeless and couch-surfing suspects.
By 1:30 p.m. agents had arrested 14 suspects; three others were already in custody, according to a press release (attached).
Police issued an update at 7:30 p.m. that two more suspects had been arrested, bringing the total to 19 suspects arrested as a result of Operation Clean Sweep.
All were booked on felony drug charges including possession and possession of drugs for sale.
Small dealers targeted
Operation Clean Sweep's goal is to get the smaller drug dealers off the streets, according to Napa Special Bureau Investigations Sgt. Oscar Ortiz.
“The majority of these drug dealers are arrested for possession of meth and not selling. They do both,” Ortiz said.
Both possession and selling are felonies, but selling drugs is a more serious offense, which can result in doing prison time.
Most of the targeted suspects have prior criminal history, such as domestic violence, burglary, grand theft, robbery and fraud.
Informant assisted with investigation
The undercover operation included an earlier series of drug deals with the suspects and a NSIB drug informant.
The informant would arrange a “buy” from a drug dealer. When the deal went down, drug agents were there in unmarked cars, video taping the entire transaction.
“We wanted to make all the arrests at one time. We want to make an impact and get these dealers off the streets,” Ortiz said.
Drug dealers are not shy about doing business in public places, even the in front of the county jail.
A drug deal was made by the informant and dealer as the dealer was going to his drug abuse program at the jail on Coombs Street.
Others were made in shopping center parking lots, inside a liquor store and at the dealers’ house.
“One couple met the informant to sell him drugs at a shopping center parking lot, and they had their young child in the backseat strapped in a car seat,” Ortiz said.
“They did that on two different buys. They will be charged with felony child endangerment.”
Thursday morning's arrests of the Bakers were not on the agenda and were the only ones that came with any commotion.
Do you subscribe to the Napa Patch newsletter? It brings our latest stories, blogs, announcements and the day's calendar events to your in-box early each morning. If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so by clicking here.