Boynton cops: 16 arrested in probe to curb opiate-induced overdoses

In the wake of a nationwide opioid epidemic, Boynton Beach police announced Tuesday a local win: The arrests of 16 men in a yearlong operation called Cherry Pill, aimed at yanking alleged drug dealers from the streets to limit the hundreds of yearly heroin-related overdoses that happen in the city.

Those arrested range in age from 18 to 56 and while most face state charges, three face federal. The charges include knowingly and intentionally possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute, that is heroin and fentanyl; conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, that is, heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogs; and trafficking in heroin.

The authorities — Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Lantana police departments, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration — used wiretaps, worked with a confidential source and watched from afar as the subjects appeared to be handing drugs to one another. Authorities say the three who face the federal charges — Lorenzo Edmonds, Bryan Preston Todd and Taje Bannister — dealt drugs outside the MLK Quick Stop on Northeast 10th Avenue in the Heart of Boynton community in the city and the Sam’s Club in Lantana, according to federal documents.

“Lives were saved today,” Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said in a statement. “Addiction is a public health crisis which has a law enforcement component. Today, we and our law enforcement partners reinforce our resolve to address the supply side of this issue. I encourage other community stakeholders to continue addressing the demand component.”

There have been 542 drug overdoses since January, 56 of which were fatal. There were 433 overdoses in 2016, 35 of which were fatal, Boynton Police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said.

Two of the arrested are 40-year-old twins Kunta and Kelcey Riddick . Kelcey is also facing a first-degree murder charge in the Sept. 4 killing of Derrick Barber outside the MLK Quick Stop. The fight started over a woman Kunta and Barber had been seeing and ended with Kelcey charged with fatally shooting Barber.

The Palm Beach Post previously reported that days after Barber’s death, Kunta was arrested on drug-trafficking charges stemming from a July 2016 search of the Boynton home he appeared to share with his brother. That was part of this Cherry Pill investigation. Authorities found guns, baggies, scales and syringes throughout the home on Northwest Fourth Street. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana and oxycodone pills were scattered throughout the rooms as well.

Brian Fitzpatrick, who owns property in the Heart of Boynton neighborhoods, said the investigation shows “good work done” by the officers.

“I hope this is the start of some real progress because the law-abiding citizens in the Heart of Boynton, they want progress. They don’t want the same old conditions that have been going on for years. They don’t want what goes on now to continue to go on. They want change,” he said.

On Tuesday, authorities arrested 10 of the men in a countywide sweep. Police confiscated $1,240, two handguns and dozens of plastic bags of heroin, cocaine, crack and marijuana, said Slater.

Three men were arrested in September and October. Three others were taken into custody earlier this month. During those arrests, authorities seized $21,813 cash, 15 cellphones, and 729 grams of suspected drugs including heroin, cocaine and Percocets.

More arrests are expected.

Arrested so far, according to police: Kunta Riddick, 40; Kelcey Riddick, 40, both of Boynton Beach; Arnold Sims, 56, Boynton Beach; Derriel Wallace, 22, Boynton Beach; Shadrick Lee, 53, Boynton Beach; Jaden Miraj, 18; Terrence Wilkins, 26, Boynton Beach; Corey Floyd, 39, Boynton Beach; Billy Rollerson, 27, Lake Worth; Keyon Mack, Boynton Beach; Cedric Petty, 37; Melvin Hall, 39; Sherwick Jonas, 38; Lorenzo Edmonds, 42; Bryan Preston Todd, 41; Taje Bannister, 24.

Staff reporter Olivia Hitchcock contributed to this story.

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