KCSO: From Detroit to Knoxville, I-75's the drug pipeline
What's fueling the opioid crisis in East Tennessee? To the Knox County Sheriff's Office, the answer's simple -- a highway winding from North to South.
Narcotics investigators dubbed I-75 the "pipeline" responsible for shifting pills from dealers of the Great Lakes into the veins of people near the Great Smoky Mountains.
"We certainly don't mind people from Michigan coming here. But, if you want to come, leave your drugs at home," a KCSO chief said. "There's a pipeline from Michigan to our community. We know it and we're working diligently to end that."
On Tuesday, the Knox County Sheriff's Office unveiled the results of a six-month long drug investigation. SWAT teams and narcotics detectives swarmed a house on Burns Avenue that was made home to mounds of cash, drugs and guns. Four men from Michigan now face multiple charges associated with the case including sale and delivery of schedule II, sale and delivery of schedule VI, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and maintaining of a dwelling where drugs were sold or used.
Darius Cordell Attles, Roy Tenell Washington, and Robert Ray Mapp were placed behind bars after detectives seized more than $80,000 in cash, $100,000 worth of illegal drugs and recovered three weapons from the East Knoxville house early Tuesday morning. Andrew Lockhart IV was transported to UT Medical Center after diving out of a second-story window of the house during the raid.
"These folks aren't addicted to these drugs, they're drug dealers. They're bringing their poison to our community," KCSO's Lee Tramel said. "I-75 leaves from Detroit and comes right to Knoxville, Tennessee, and ends in Florida. That is a courier route."
Some Michigan natives now living in Knox County thanked the sheriff's office for their work, but felt that their statements warranted an apology.
"As a native Michigander now living in Knox County, I find the sheriff office statement to be both offensive and bordering on profiling," viewer Jerry Westover said in a Facebook message. "While I do recognize that many drugs come from Detroit, they also come from many other major cities in other states. Does that mean that the KCSO feels the same way about the citizens in those states as they do Michigan's?"
Westover continued to say he hopes the longstanding relationship between Tennessee and Michigan would not be tarnished by KCSO's remarks.
KCSO named off some of the pills taken from the home as oxymorphone, roxies, oxycodine, marijuana, and Opanas. Investigators believe the drugs are being brought to the Knoxville area on a weekly basis.
Authorities called Tuesday's bust a brief pause in the fight to end the opioid epidemic since the narcotics division has served 16 search warrants since October.