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Press Release

Anti-gang And Violent Crime Reduction Initiative Leads To More Than 135 Arrests

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District Of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A total of 138 defendants have been arrested and currently face state charges in connection with operation “Southern Snare,” an anti-gang and violent crime reduction initiative led by the United States Marshals Service in coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The arrests took place over the course of the four-month long operation, which began in May and concluded on September 5, 2014.

This anti-gang and violent crime reduction initiative targeted gang activities and violent crime in Gaston and Cleveland counties, with special emphasis placed on communities within Gastonia and Shelby, N.C. During this operation, authorities seized 56 firearms, narcotics with an approximate street value of $178,000, and an estimated $15,000 in U.S. currency.

Kelly M. Nesbit, United States Marshal of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) for the Western District of North Carolina; Wayne L. Dixie, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division; Ryan L. Spradlin, Acting Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta and the Carolinas; B.W. Collier, Acting Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Johnny Hawkins, Director of Security Services, North Carolina Department of Public Safety; Chief James W. Buie of the Gaston County Police Department; Chief Robert Helton of the Gastonia Police Department; Sheriff Alan Cloninger of the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office; Locke Bell District Attorney for Gaston County; Chief Jeffrey H. Ledford of the Shelby Police Department; Chief Melvin Proctor of the Kings Mountain Police Department; Sheriff Alan Norman of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office; and Rick Shaffer, District Attorney for Cleveland and Lincoln Counties join Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina in making today’s announcement.

“I commend the law enforcement partners involved in this cross-jurisdictional and multi-agency operation for their hard work and their commitment to making our streets and communities safer,” stated Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

“The success of Operation Southern Snare is the result of our close cooperation and coordination with our law enforcement partners. Targeted initiatives like this one bring relief to communities afflicted by gang activity and the violence it brings. I want to thank all our law enforcement partners for their involvement and support throughout this operation, and I look forward to our continued partnership, as we work together to remove gang members and violent offenders from our streets and to protect our neighborhoods from the spread of violence. Most of all, I commend the law enforcement agents and officers who worked tirelessly to make this initiative a success and I want to thank them for continuing to put their lives at risk to safeguard our communities,” said Kelly M. Nesbit, U.S. Marshal, Western District of North Carolina.

“ATF’s mission is to identify, pursue and perfect criminal cases against individuals who illegally possess and use firearms in furtherance of their criminal activities,” said ATF’s Special Agent in Charge Wayne L. Dixie. “We will continue to work with the U.S. Marshals Service and our local counterparts in Cleveland and Gaston Counties to ensure that those who foster violence in this region are held to account for their activities.”

“Operation Southern Snare’s arrests have made a significant difference in eliminating Shelby and Gastonia’s gang activity and apprehending those who commit violent crimes,” SBI Director B.W. Collier said. “A lot of effort and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies has led to safer communities in Cleveland and Gaston counties. I applaud this successful operation.”

“Collaborating with our partners at the federal and local levels on operations like this one brings tremendous benefits,” said Johnny Hawkins, Director of Security Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. “The law enforcement agencies benefit from the sharing of expertise and resources and citizens know that their communities are safer due to these efforts.”

“The efforts of all the law enforcement officers involved in this operation will result in amazing returns for our community. This project is a great example of the impact we can make by working hand-in-hand with our federal and state partners. Together, we have addressed issues such as gangs, drugs and guns, which have been deteriorating our communities. Although this operation is coming to a close, we see it as a beginning instead of an ending. The partnerships formed over the past few months will continue to grow and our communities will reap the benefits,” said Chief of Shelby Police Department, Jeffrey H. Ledford.

“The success of Operation ‘Southern Snare’ had a positive and lasting impact on our community. This type of multiagency cooperation sends a clear message to the citizens of Kings Mountain and to criminals who think they can conduct their illegal activities in our area: The Kings Mountain Police Department will work alongside our federal and state law enforcement partners to protect the safety of the communities we serve,” said Chief Melvin Proctor of Kings Mountain Police Department.

“The U.S. Marshalls Service has been very beneficial in assisting us in dealing with our gang members in Cleveland County. We are looking forward to continuing this team approach with future operations,” said Sheriff Alan Norman of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office.

The defendants arrested during this operation currently face state charges in connection with this investigation which include: narcotics-related offenses, firearms violations and other violent crimes. The investigations are ongoing which may result in additional charges against the defendants.

This initiative was led by the U.S. Marshals Service in coordination with ATF, HSI, NC SBI, NC Dept. of Public Safety, Gaston Co. PD, Gastonia PD, Gaston Co. SO, Shelby PD, Kings Mountain PD, and Cleveland County SO.

Updated March 19, 2015