WARREN - Law enforcement officials would not confirm whether Wednesday's round-up of suspected drug dealers is directly connected to some of the city's bloodiest crimes - including two high-profile killings in the downtown area within months of each other.
But they acknowledged there is an organized crime link between Warren and Detroit that resulted in dozens of people being indicted on various drug and weapons charges.
U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, at a news conference on Wednesday, called the suspects career criminals. According to court and police records, many of them have long criminal histories in Trumbull County.
One, Derrick "Rizzi" Peete, 22, with addresses in Warren and Detroit, was indicted on three counts of heroin distribution, the use of a phone in the commission of a felony, and possession with intent to distribute heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine.
While law enforcement spent much of the day Wednesday rounding up suspects, Peete was already behind bars waiting to stand trial in the Nov. 11 shooting death of Marco Dukes Sr., 32, of Warren. Dukes died in a downtown shootout with Peete, according to police. Dukes' cousin, Larry Smith, 29, of Warren, was wounded.
Peete has remained at the Trumbull County Jail in lieu of a $2.5 million bond since being charged with aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault, all with firearm specifications, improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, and having weapons while under disability because of a prior felony conviction.
"It's our hope that the work we saw today is a major step in fighting the types of crimes you saw in those cases," remarked Warren police Chief Timothy Bowers.
Officials said the main case unsealed Wednesday outlines a connection between Peete and Valentino Thomas Sr., 41, of Warren. The indictment states Peete helped Thomas obtain drugs, which were then sold to Anthony L. Ector Jr., 29, of Warren. Ector then sold the drugs to various Warren-area and Detroit street dealers, including Lewis C. Powell II, 33, of Warren, according to the indictment.
Before his arrest in the Dukes' shooting, Peete had criminal histories in Detroit and has been convicted of drug-related crimes in Warren, according to court and police records in Trumbull County and Michigan.
Warren police continue to investigate the Jan. 1 shooting death of Cory Blackwell, 25, of Warren, at the former Sunset Lounge downtown.
Close to 200 federal and local law enforcement agents swarmed the area Wednesday. Officials said simultaneous roundups related to the case were taking place in Detroit, Dayton and Pittsburgh.
The indictments came after a yearlong investigation, officials said.