With opiate-related deaths up in Hennepin County, deputies targeted 155 drug suspects.
Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies caught one of their most wanted fugitives Tuesday in a countywide search for 155 people with outstanding narcotics arrest warrants.
John Thomas Elsenpeter, 28, one of the top 10 fugitives in the county, was arrested in Crystal on outstanding warrants for selling cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, said Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Jennifer Johnson.
Elsenpeter’s arrest was the high point of the semiannual sweep, which concentrated on Minneapolis and the northwest suburbs, but also sent teams into Edina, Golden Valley and Minnetonka, the sheriff’s office said. Though the county carries out warrants daily, twice a year it schedules larger sweeps — more than 75 officers participated on Tuesday.
“The summer season has typically been a time of increased crime,” said Sheriff Richard Stanek. “This morning’s sweep is one of the proactive ways all of us can work together to improve public safety in our communities.”
Stanek said many of the targets had multiple arrests and warrants; none were first-time offenders. The Sheriff’s Office did not release a total number of arrests made Tuesday because the county will continue looking for those wanted until the end of the month, Johnson said.
The drug sweep comes as the county witnesses a spike in heroin overdose fatalities in the county: 56 in 2013, and 17 as of April this year, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Opiate-related deaths in Hennepin County rose 57.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to drug abuse expert Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues.
Stanek said heroin usage is rising because dealers have more to sell and are selling at lower prices.
“They’re in the business of dealing drugs and we know they most likely want to grow their business, and that means they’re continuing to move more narcotics out onto the streets,” Stanek said. “We’re going to see more sales and more lives ruined from the poison that they peddle.”
Becky Scheig provided extra motivation at the 7 a.m. roll call at the sheriff’s office in Brooklyn Park. She stood at the front of the room next to pictures of her son, Andrew — one of him as a child, and one of him in a red graduation gown.
Andrew died of a heroin overdose in March 2013, she said. One night he asked his supplier for his usual pills. She didn’t have them, but had heroin, and Andrew took it; he was dead the next morning.
“I was asked to speak with you this morning and share my story in hopes of inspiring you to go out and get the bad guys,” she said.
Thirteen teams left the sheriff’s office after roll call. One group headed into north Minneapolis, searching for 10 offenders.
The officers pounded on doors, warrants in their hands. They surrounded houses, listening for any sounds and watching for even the smallest motion, like flickering blinds.
At an apartment across the street from a sign stating, “No drugs, no loitering, no crime,” officers handcuffed a man wanted for drug possession.
“I turned myself in!” the man said. He was later released at the jail, said deputy Aaron Nestrud.
The team made three arrests, but some offenders were not at home in other attempts.
Jason Majeski, a K-9 handler, said he prefers sweeps like this to serve felony warrants, because of the severity of the crimes. Tuesday’s team included dogs — Majeski had one waiting in a car in case an offender refused to cooperate.
Nestrud called the sweep a success.
After the arrest outside the apartment, a man in a motorized wheelchair rode by the officers.
“Thanks for what you do,” he called to them.
Beena Raghavendran • 612-673-4649