Operation Spring Thunder targets Warren crime

Staff report


The recently completed Operation Spring Thunder targeted the most-violent criminals in the city, resulting in arrests and seizures of drugs, weapons and cash.

The initiative in Warren took place from March 24 to May 24 and was announced Tuesday by Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel, U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott and U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach. Spring Thunder was a joint collaboration among numerous local, state and federal agencies.

Daily operations varied from U.S. Marshals fugitive roundups to random Ohio Adult Parole home visits to traffic saturations conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Participating agencies would share information on offenders with the criminal-intelligence analysts at the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.

Highlights of the operation:

157 physical arrests and 16 surrender arrests; for a total of 173 arrests.

14 firearms and 150 rounds of ammunition seized.

$3,110 in U.S. currency seized.

Seizures of crack, heroin and marijuana.

More than 100 parole visits resulting in 27 parole-violation arrests.

More than $16,000 in fines and costs collected as a result of arrests.

Members working this operation were some of the first law-enforcement officers to respond to the Trumbull County Jail correction-officer hostage standoff April 23.

“A lot of planning and cooperation went into this joint operation, and the hard work has paid off. Working together, we were able to make an impact against violent crime in the city of Warren,” Elliott said. “There is no way to measure how many potential future crimes we have prevented, but we can only hope that this effort has saved lives and avoided potential victims of violent crime.”

Agencies participating in Operation Spring Thunder were: Girard Police Department, Lordstown Police Department, Niles Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, Trumbull and Ashtabula Group (TAG), Trumbull County Jail, Trumbull County Probation, Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, Warren Police Department, Warren Municipal Court, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The operation led to the arrest of William Countryman on charges of aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the knife-point abduction of a woman from Trumbull Memorial Hospital. Countryman was arrested May 9 by Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force personnel on Comstock Avenue, where he was hiding in a closet. He could face 20 years in prison.

Also arrested was Yahya Bilal, aka John Barnes, on charges of felon in possession of dangerous drugs and possession of weapon. Authorities learned April 2 that the fugitive was living on Pratt Street in Niles. Bilal has a lengthy violent criminal history and was wanted on several felony offenses. Bilal was found hiding in a crawl space above the basement stairs. A 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition and digital scales were seized; Bilal is in federal custody.

Levar Allen is charged with weapons under disability, receiving stolen property (firearm), probation violation and possession of cocaine. On April 10, the state patrol made a traffic stop on Palmyra Road and retrieved crack cocaine and a firearm from one of the vehicles. Another firearm, a handgun, was stolen from a house in Geauga County and given to a man later identified as Allen in Warren for drugs. Allen was on probation with the Trumbull County Drug Court. A probation home visit was conducted, and recovered from Allen’s residence were three handguns, ammunition, digital scales and $1,843, authorities said.

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