32 arrested in drug roundup

OKEECHOBEE — After Jim Stephenson was cuffed early Tuesday morning, Sheriff Noel Stephen walked up and began to talk to him.

As the suspect in the illegal sale of prescription pills inquired as to what was happening at roughly 7:30 a.m., the sheriff didn’t mince words.

“You know exactly what’s going on: You play — you pay,” said Sheriff Stephen. “We’ve got probable cause to believe you’ve been selling narcotics.”

Stephenson, the owner of Jim’s Place on U.S. 441 S.E., was just one of many Okeechobee residents who were arrested for allegedly selling prescription pills, methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs. The year-long investigation that ended Aug. 29 focused on the street-level sale of these drugs.

Officer Ryan Holroyd, from the Okeechobee City Police Department, leads a handcuffed Walter ‘Freak’ Jackson to a waiting transport unit after his arrest Tuesday, Aug. 29, during a drug roundup throughout Okeechobee County. Jackson was charged with the sale of prescription pills. Photo by Eric Kopp.

During a 6 a.m. briefing, personnel from the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, the Okeechobee City Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and Immigration Customs Enforcement were told 39 people were to be arrested as a result of the operation.

Thirty-two people were in custody and seven more individuals were being sought by law enforcement as of newspaper deadline.

“We’re getting people who have been doing this for a long time,” pointed out Sheriff Stephen. “These are not users we’re picking up. Some do use, but they’re primarily selling.”

Arrested in connection with the operation were:

• Terry ‘Gold Teeth’ Taylor, 61, sale of cocaine;

• Walter ‘Freak’ Jackson, 59, sale of prescription pills;

• Walter ‘Nunee’ Jackson, 58, sale of prescription pills;

• Merita ‘Rita’ Jackson, 54, sale of prescription pills;

• Clarence ‘CD’ Dennis, 61, sale of cocaine;

• Sherman M. Gordon, 36, possession of methamphetamine, manufacturing hallucinogens;

• Natasha Shena Covert, 35, sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church;

• Dawn Ashlee Hartzke, 49, sale of oxycodone and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell;

• Ervey Ponce, 33, sale of methamphetamine;

• Austin Ehrhart Dale, 38, sale of methamphetamine;

• Charles Edgar Hill IV, 33, sale of methamphetamine;

• Jessica Lynn Harris, 31, sale of methamphetamine;

• Donna Anne Lewis, 59, sale of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a church;

• David Allen Lewis, 38, sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church;

• Johnnie Lee Frost, 33, sale of marijuana;

• Bobby Damale Redden, 26, sale of cocaine;

• Robert Bryan Smith, 49, sale of methamphetamine;

• Wesley Alan Williams, 30, sale of methamphetamine;

• Howard ‘Shamrock’ Clendenin, 36, sale of methamphetamine;

• Jonna Kimla, 28, sale of methamphetamine;

• Brandi Collins, 35, sale of methamphetamine;

• Michelle Fussell, 43, sale of methamphetamine;

• Justin ‘Jizz’ Lee Harris, sale of methamphetamine;

• James Ihinger, 38, sale of methamphetamine;

• James ‘Jim’ Stephenson, 69, sale of a controlled substance (oxycodone);

• Willie ‘Skippy’ Lewis, 34, sale of cocaine;

• Ladonna Hopewell, 29, sale of a controlled substance (hydromorphone);

• Francisco Reyes, 63, sale of methamphetamine;

• David Sherrod, 34, sale of cocaine;

• Matthew Dustin Cole, 28, sale of methamphetamine. He is being held in the Polk County Jail on Okeechobee charges.

• Andrew ‘Fat Red’ Jackson, 43, sale of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a church and trafficking in methamphetamine. He is being in the St. Lucie County Jail on Okeechobee charges.

• Richard ‘Richie’ Watson, 41, sale of methamphetamine. He is being held in the Osceola County Jail on Okeechobee charges.

Sheriff Stephen pointed out that all of those to be arrested during the roundup had sold methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and pills in the last year.

He added that meth and amphetamine use has overtaken the use of prescription pills because pills have become too expensive.

“Now, meth is more prevalent. But, we’re also starting to see more fentanyl being used,” he offered.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, teams had arrested 10 individuals and were soon back on the street to round up more.

James Stephenson

Walter ‘Nooney’ Jackson

Terry Taylor

Walter ‘Freak’ Jackson

Clarence Dennis

Sherman Gordon

Dawn Hartzke

Natasha Covert

Ervey Ponce

Austin Dale

Charles Hill

Donna Lewis

Wesley Williams

Richard Watson

Francisco Reyes

David Sherrod

Robert Smith

Bobby Redden

David Lewis

Jonna Kimla

Merita Jackson

James Ihnger

Justin Harris

Johnnie Frost

Howard Clendenin, Jr.

Jessica Harris

Brandi Collins

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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