63 drug dealers, users identified in narcotics sweep, Jacksonville police say

Undercover JSO detective worked 4 months in ‘Operation Early Checkout’

Undercover JSO detective worked 4 months in ‘Operation Early Checkout.’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A big drug sweep four months in the making has landed 31 people in jail, with Jacksonville police looking for 32 more.

Director Mike Bruno, with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said a narcotics team rounded up suspected drug users and dealers who were doing dangerous deals day and night on Jacksonville’s Westside.

Most of the activity focused around the area of Blanding Boulevard and Youngerman Circle. The operation was dubbed “Early Checkout.”

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Bruno said an undercover officer posed as a drug user and dealer, building the cases for months. He said it started with citizen complaints and a drug bust, which led to information about more illegal activity.

“Our undercover officer did a phenomenal job,” Bruno said. “He had over 160 narcotics transactions during that four-month span where he is buying dope, putting it in the property room, identifying these individuals.”

Bruno said many of the deals were based at motels, restaurants and gas stations. Some happened in public restrooms.

“In this case, the community brought us a concern, and that’s what we need. We need to know about the issues and how we can help,” Bruno said.

A total of 63 suspects have been identified, and about half have been arrested. The others remain wanted. They range from drug users to upper-level drug dealers, Bruno said, selling everything from fentanyl to crack cocaine.

“It’s ruining lives,” Bruno said. “And you’ve got individuals out there that are trying to capitalize on it and ruin other lives. It’s just sad.”

Bruno said the detective saw a lot over four months, from suspects dealing in front of their kids to overdoses, which didn’t seem to bother the suspects. One time, a man was passed out in the back of a dealer’s truck. The dealer is overheard saying in an undercover recording, “He’s dead. Like dead dead.”

The man survived, coming out of the overdose just before the undercover officer used Narcan.

Bruno said many dealers are selling Narcan, which is used for drug overdoses, bringing addicts back from the verge of death.

He noted the undercover officer was at risk several times: intimidated, threatened and patted down.

“He is living in somebody else’s world by somebody else’s rules and he’s extremely vulnerable,” Bruno said. “I think by pulling out the dealers and even some of the users, you’re certainly elevating the whole area. But it’s gonna be something that requires maintenance.”

What’s needed? A long-term fix to solve a long-time problem, Bruno said.

News4Jax has requested a full list of the names and charges for all the suspects arrested or wanted from the operation.

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Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.