06/15/2007

Fla. drug dealers launch gunfight against ATF, 3 suspects wounded

By Henry Pierson Curtis,
The Orlando Sentinel

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Three armed suspects were wounded when the drug dealers they intended to rob Thursday turned out to be federal agents, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

An elite squad of ATF agents from Texas opened fire when one of the men raised an AK-47 assault rifle rather than surrender, deputies and agents said.

"This is what ATF does. We go after the worst of the worst," said Agent Carlos Baixauli, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "They knew [we] were cops, and they chose to fight."

Flying glass cut a third suspect when bullets riddled the windshield of the suspects' car about 2 p.m. behind United Stor-All at 7400 W. Colonial Drive, deputies said.

Charlie Williams, 27; Mercutio Stokes, 28; and Kylund Johnson, 20, all of Orlando, were arrested on federal charges of using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug-trafficking crime, trafficking in a controlled substance and conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance. If convicted on all counts, each could face 25 years in prison.

The investigation began 10 days ago when ATF agents identified the men as members of a ring ripping off drug dealers, Baixauli said.

A team of agents trained to arrest armed suspects was brought in from Dallas to back up undercover agents in Thursday's arrest, he said.

"The bottom line is, drugs and guns go together," Baixauli said. "A lot of innocent people get caught in the crossfire sometimes."

The suspects were treated at Orlando Regional Medical Center. The shooting is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at ATF's request.

Copyright 2007 Sentinel Communications Co.

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