Narcotics raid leaves 2 N.C. deputies suspended

Ray Gronberg
The Herald-Sun
Copyright 2006 The Durham Herald Co.

Two more Durham County Sheriff's Office deputies have been suspended after a Friday evening narcotics raid on a North Roxboro Street nightclub that produced cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges against one of their colleagues.

Sheriff Worth Hill said deputies Brad King and Keith Dotson were ordered home from off-duty jobs Friday night and suspended as the investigation continued. One of them was working security at the club, La Zona, at 2825 N. Roxboro Road, when Friday's raid occurred.

Deputies who conducted Friday's raid had expected to find both King and Dotson at La Zona, but one turned out to be working an off-duty job elsewhere. But both "worked there regular," Hill said, adding that investigators had been watching the club "for a long time."

Hill added that both deputies could face disciplinary action, but he wouldn't specify whether that might include criminal charges. "They've got some problems, let's put it that way. The extent of it I just can't get into right now," he said Sunday. "We'll know pretty soon."

Friday's raid left another deputy, Michael P. Owens, suspended and free on $50,00 bond while facing counts of trafficking in cocaine, conspiracy to traffic cocaine and maintaining a building for the sale and delivery of drugs. Owens is the owner of La Zona. He and four other men described as club employees or regular customers were arrested during the raid.

The arrest appears certain to end Owens' three-year stint with the Sheriff's Office. "As far as I'm concerned, he's fired," Hill said, adding that he didn't have to wait for the outcome of the criminal case before taking action against the deputy.

The drug charges against Owens and the other four men arrested Friday -- Sergio Garcia Perez, 23; Mario Garcia Segura, 21; and Isidoro Vallinas Domingues, 25, all of 3106 E. Geer St., and Jose Manuel Ramirez, 21, of 453 California St., Belhaven -- involve the alleged distribution of powdered cocaine.

Capt. Paul Martin of the Sheriff's Office said Saturday that investigators seized about 1.4 ounces of cocaine during the raid.

Hill said he didn't think King and Dotson were involved with drugs, but he indicated that drugs weren't necessarily the only criminal activity investigators were looking into.

Pressed for specifics, Hill said allegations surrounding the bar involving the creation or distribution of fake IDs -- drivers' licenses and Social Security cards -- are "a possibility." So too are allegations involving prostitution, perhaps up to and including the operation of a prostitution ring.

Martin and Hill have said the Sheriff's Office narcotics unit has been working with an FBI task force based in Raleigh on the case. The agents were at the very least kept informed to leave open the possibility of bringing federal charges against some of the figures in the case.

Further developments await a round of consultations today between Hill, Martin and perhaps FBI officials.

Hill said decisions about disciplinary action against King and Dotson should happen quickly, but the criminal investigation might move more slowly.

"In reference to those other two deputies, we might have some answers, but wrapping up the whole case, I don't know if we'll come to a final conclusion on that," he said, referring to today's planned meetings. "But what we're going to do with the people we've been talking about, I'm going to make the decision one way or another."

Hill said he hadn't heard about any Durham Police Department officers working off-duty jobs at La Zona, and didn't "think any police officers have been involved in whatever's going on there."

La Zona is in the city limits, on the west side of North Roxboro Road between East Maynard Avenue and East Edgewood Drive. Martin has termed it a "caberet" that catered to local Hispanics.

Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers couldn't be reached Sunday for comment on whether any of his officers worked at the club.

Hill has acknowledged keeping city police in the dark about the investigation to preserve secrecy, and Chalmers said Saturday that he had no quarrel with that decision. 

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