EL ‘nuisance’ house hit in drug raid Thursday

EAST LIVERPOOL – A house once closed down by the county prosecutor as a public nuisance was raided Thursday morning by law enforcement officers, with one man arrested and charges pending against another.

The house at 414 Ogden St. was owned by Robert Conkle several years ago when repeated police calls about drugs and other illegal activity prompted the city to seek action against it as a nuisance property.

Conkle was ordered out of the house, which was boarded up for a year, after which he was required to sell the property.

The buyer, Robert P. Chan, 56, was arrested yesterday during the raid by the county Drug Task Force (DTF), county Special Response Team (SRT), sheriff’s office, federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and city police, charged with permitted drug abuse, a fifth degree felony.

Armed with a search warrant, officers converged on the small white house just after 9:30 a.m., hitting the door with a battering ram and tossing “flash bangs” inside to create a diversion for anyone inside.

They emerged from inside with Chan, another man and a woman in handcuffs, setting them on the ground as officers began searching the residence.

East Liverpool’s K-9 team of Patrolman Chad Tatgenhorst and canine officer Ivo also searched the interior of the home.

According to DTF Director Brian McLaughlin, officers recovered drug paraphernalia, a small amount of heroin and numerous syringes, and he said additional charges are pending.

Medics with the arresting agencies tended to the female removed from the home when she complained of feeling ill, and a North Star ambulance crew was called to the scene but left after checking out the woman.

While officers were searching the house, a resident of the neighborhood noticed a man and woman who appeared to be walking toward the Ogden Street residence who turned away when they saw the massive police presence surrounding the house.

He waved down police officers and advised what he had seen, and they took the man and woman into custody on Grant Street. They were released, but police Chief John Lane said charges are pending because the man reportedly had a small bag of marijuana with him.

Lane said the house at 414 Ogden has “definitely become a nuisance again,” noting the address is habitually given as a home address by people his officers arrest.

After Chan was taken away in handcuffs to be processed, Lane ordered the others to leave the property and “find somewhere else to stay.”

Expressing his appreciation for the sheriff’s department and others who participated in yesterday’s operation, Lane said he is trying to arrange his department schedule to allow for one of his officers to serve on the drug task force but “we just don’t have the numbers.”

Saying the budget allotted by the city only allows for the minimal amount of officers, Lane said, “When you’re short (officers), you can’t be proactive. It’s difficult to do all we want. It’s not that I don’t want to send a guy to the task force.”

Also Thursday, the DTF and DEA responded to a request by Liverpool Township and St. Clair Township police officers to assist them at a tent at 2010 Ashland Ave. in Liverpool Township.

After receiving a tip that Jason Barnes, 26, and Christie Thrasher, 33, were at the location and had active warrants for failure to appear on drug trafficking charges, township officers went to the property to take them into custody.

When officers arrived, Barnes and Thrasher were inside the tent where they have reportedly been living. The property is owned by the Barnes family and has no house on it, according to township officers.

While taking them into custody, police officers reported seeing what appeared to be drugs inside the tent. After the DTF and DEA obtained a consent to search from the pair, they reported finding about $1,000 worth of crack cocaine, marijuana and several prescription tablets as well as a small amount of cash.

Barnes and Thrasher were taken into custody on the warrants, and additional charges are pending, according to McLaughlin.