Two More Arrested in Connection to Eastern Avenue Marijuana Distribution Conspiracy, Shootings
Roanoke, VIRGINIA –A pair of Roanoke men, Chad Custer and Darion Harvey, who conspired with others to run a marijuana operation out of a rented, Eastern Avenue home in the City of Roanoke, have been charged in a federal criminal complaint with drug and gun charges. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement today as part of the Western District of Virginia’s ongoing Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to reduce drug and violent crime.
Custer and Harvey are the latest in a series of arrests tied to the alleged drug operation at the Eastern Avenue home. Earlier this week, Aaron Woods was arrested and charged with federal drug and firearms-related crimes.
“These and other recent arrests reflect the commitment of federal law enforcement and the Roanoke Police Department to respond, in an aggressive manner, to rising levels of violence and organized drug activity in the city,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “Working collaboratively, we will continue to investigate individuals and groups engaged in these activities and, when appropriate, prosecute them in federal court.”
As alleged in the criminal complaints, Woods, Custer, Harvey, and others had been working together since at least 2017 to distribute large amounts of marijuana from an Eastern Avenue home Woods rented. Law enforcement estimated that a dozen or more individuals would visit the home each day to purchase marijuana from large, vacuum-sealed bags left out on a table. According to witnesses, purchasers streamed in and out throughout the day as others played video games, smoked marijuana and socialized. Witnesses described seeing Woods, Custer and Harvey in possession of firearms, which they kept out on tables or in their waistbands.
Nolan Kyle Harman, also of Roanoke, was charged federally in February of this year for making straw purchases of firearms for Custer, at Custer’s request.
The complaints allege the distribution activity at Woods’ Eastern Avenue residence culminated in a shooting death on July 10, 2018. According to witnesses, three individuals who had earlier in the day left the residence following an argument about a marijuana purchase, returned around 9:45 p.m. Something like a brick was thrown through the front, plate glass window at which point Woods, Harvey and Custer began shooting. Two-way gunfire ensued, resulting in the death of an individual who was shot in the head and neck as he/she apparently attempted to flee the scene. Woods, Harvey, Custer, and others, fled the Eastern Avenue home following the shooting.
Investigation of these cases was conducted by the Roanoke City Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Roanoke County Police Department, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police, and members of the region’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force. Assistant United States Attorney Kari Munro will prosecute these cases for the United States.
These cases were brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. These defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.