St. Johnsbury Police raided a house at 619 Portland St. just before 8 a.m. Thursday and seized guns, drugs, thousands of dollars in cash and cited six suspects on multiple charges including fentanyl trafficking.
Police also located a suspect now being charged in connection with an unsolved shooting on Lafeyette Street last month.
A total of nine people were arrested during the raid. Three were released. Five were cited and released to answer charges at a future date.
According to police, the five suspects are: Tyge R. Searl, 36, fentanyl trafficking; Heather L. Powers, 32, fentanyl trafficking; Ariya Sweeney, 19, impeding a police officer and resisting arrest; Sherod A. Hackett, 22, fentanyl trafficking and Jonathon C. Headley, 24, fentanyl trafficking. Police did not provide the home towns of the five accused suspects.
A sixth suspect was identified by police as Paul L. Downer, 25, of Hartford, Conn.
In addition to being cited for fentanyl trafficking, Downer was also cited for aggravated assault with a weapon and attempted 2nd-degree murder in connection with the shooting of Ryan C. Farnham, 29, in an apartment at 243 Lafayette Street in St. Johnsbury on Jan. 22.
Downer was held overnight without bail by the court and will be arraigned on the charges tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Guns & Drugs
The operation, which also involved the Northern Drug Task Force, The Essex County Sheriff’s Department, the ATF and FBI, led to the seizure of 84 grams of fentanyl and 190 grams of crack cocaine.
“That’s a lot,” said St. Johnsbury Police Chief Tim Page following the raid.
Police also found $7,567 in cash in the house and 11 firearms including two AR-15 rifles, two revolvers and seven semi-automatic handguns. Two of the handguns and one of the AR-15 rifles were identified as stolen. Two of the handguns seized by police had the serial numbers filed off.
“We knew there were guns going in and we knew there were bad guys,” said Chief Page. “But we had to do what we had to do. Our guys are very well trained and they did everything we asked them to do.”
Police said 619 Portland St. has been a known location for fentanyl trafficking and the subject of an ongoing investigation.
The scene outside the two-unit apartment building across the street from Cole’s Redemption on Thursday was active with officers and police cruisers with flashing lights. At one point, 10 cruisers were there. Some officers held assault rifles.
As the scene unfolded, one motorist exiting the Cole’s parking lot yelled from his car window, “It’s about time.”
Upon entering the residence with a search warrant police found several people inside who were then handcuffed and transported for identification and processing. Also assisting at the scene were the St. Johnsbury Fire Department and CALEX Ambulance.
Security video from a nearby surveillance camera recorded two St. Johnsbury Police officers arriving in a single cruiser at about 7:50 a.m.
The officers walked to the front door and knocked. It took 44 seconds for someone to open the door. The officers went inside. A few seconds later another five police cruisers — two from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department — arrived on scene, coming from both directions. Officers quickly exited the cruisers and ran inside.
Three minutes later police escorted the first of many suspects from the residence in handcuffs.
Those arrested were taken away in police cruisers. None appeared to struggle with their captors. Due to the number of suspects in custody not all of them could go to the police department for processing. Some went to the Caledonia County Courthouse and others went to the Vermont State Police barracks in St. Johnsbury.
One female in custody at the courthouse needed medical attention. It was reported that she was struggling with detox. CALEX rescue personnel took her to Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital. Riding along in the ambulance was a sheriff’s deputy.
Among the officers taking part in the raid were Essex County Sheriff Trevor Colby and four deputies.
“(St. Johnsbury Police) asked if we could lend a hand, and by all means, we’re going to help out when we can,” said Sheriff Colby.
The Essex County department also had an interest in being part of the raid because it hit close to home, said Colby. One of the firearms found inside the residence was reported stolen earlier from a home in Concord.
There were no injuries reported and CALEX and St. Johnsbury Firefighters who were on the scene in case of a medical emergency were told they could leave at about 8:40 a.m.
Sheriff Colby praised the police department for planning and executing a successful raid that exposed criminal activity and did so with no one hurt.
“Entering a building like that is a dangerous job,” he said.
Police had two vehicles towed from the property by Caledonia Wrecker service. One of the vehicles had a Connecticut license plate.
Chief Page said late Thursday morning that investigators would be on scene for most of the day collecting evidence.
On Jan. 22, officers from the St. Johnsbury Police Department responded at 12:06 p.m. to the reported shooting at 243 Lafayette Street.
Police located Ryan C. Farnham, 29, in a bedroom of the home sitting in a chair and “screaming for help,” according to a police press release. Farnham was with another man identified by investigators as Albert Viera, 27, who was attending to Farnham.
An EMS crew from CALEX Ambulance arrived on the scene and stabilized a hemorrhaging gun-shot wound on Farnham’s left leg before transporting him to Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital for treatment. Farnham was later transported in stable condition by CALEX to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
Police said at the time they believed the shooting of Farnham was drug-related