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Braintree drug raid nets crack cocaine

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Published on Jul 11, 2007

BRAINTREE -- John C. James was sitting on the couch in his girlfriend's Braintree Village apartment shortly before 8 p.m. Friday. A delivery man was on his way with Chinese food, and a movie featuring Rowan Atkinson was on the TV. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the parking lot outside the building: a police officer had stopped a vehicle and was using the cruiser's loudspeaker to order the driver to show his hands.
But what James didn't know was that the traffic stop was actually a decoy designed to divert his attention away from the team of drug detectives entering the building from a rear entrance and lining up outside his door. Police had quietly crept up the stairs, the only noise coming from a battering ram clanging against the metal stairwell. The crew paused briefly outside the apartment, standing next to a pink baby stroller, before bursting in with guns drawn. They ordered James face-down on the carpet. One of the two small children in the apartment at the time began to wail, and James' girlfriend pleaded with police to tell her what was happening. The Chinese food showed up as James was being led out of the building in handcuffs. The bust was another parry in the ongoing battle by local police departments to crack down on drugs in their suburban neighborhoods. With the help of the South Shore Drug Task Force, Braintree drug detectives say they found about 11 grams of crack cocaine in the apartment, along with a couple ounces of marijuana, drug packaging equipment, a digital scale and about $700. James has been charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, marijuana possession and possession of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
Last week, police working with the task force raided the home of a Brockton man. They say they seized 500 ecstasy pills, 25 bags of marijuana, $21,200 and a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. In May, the task force seized 450 grams of heroin in raids of homes in Abington, Boston, Braintree, Milton, Quincy, Scituate and Weymouth. Braintree Police Detective Brian Cahoon said the town continues to see a spike in drug dealers setting up shop in the 02184 zip code to take advantage of the town's proximity to major highways. ``Years ago, it was people coming into town and selling,'' he said. ``It used to be car-to-car deals. Now we're executing a larger number of search warrants on residences.''
Last October, police raided a Windjammer Cove apartment that was being used by some Boston dealers as a suburban clearinghouse and seized an ounce of cocaine and $1,700. Cahoon said the Braintree location, in that case, allowed the dealers to carry a smaller amount of drugs on their rounds, and avoid having to drive on the Expressway to and from Boston.
Drug busts, like the one on Friday, aren't spur of the moment raids. Although James was placed in cuffs and led to a cruiser less than 20 minutes after police burst into the apartment, Cahoon said he and his partner, Detective Michael Reynolds, spent dozens of hours building a case, including monitoring the apartment and working with informants. ``We put the time in,'' Cahoon said. ``I don't know any detective that takes it lightly to apply for a search warrant for someone's home.'' Braintree drug detectives began investigating James months ago after receiving complaints from neighbors that he was dealing crack cocaine from a second-floor apartment. Surveillance showed a number of known drug users entering and leaving the apartment, Cahoon said. According to the department's search warrant application, police initially had trouble identifying James, whom they knew only by his street name, ``JB.'' Police said they didn't figure out who he was until he appeared in court this spring to answer to a charge of driving with a suspended license. He served 60 days in jail, effectively putting the Braintree detectives' case on ice. But after James was released on June 8, Cahoon said it wasn't long before police again started receiving complaints about the apartment. ``He started his business right back up,'' Cahoon said.
Cahoon said police made two controlled buys of crack off James before applying for the search warrant on July 3. Fearful that James would try to destroy evidence, or may be armed, Cahoon successfully requested a ``no-knock'' warrant. On Friday evening, members of the task force gathered at Braintree police headquarters for a briefing. Cahoon had word that James would have crack cocaine in the apartment. After nearly two hours of waiting for confirmation from a surveillance officer that James was at home, the task force made the mile-long drive up Union Street to the sprawling apartment complex and made the bust.




Rick Collins may be reached at rcollins@ledger.com.

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