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Federal, state and local agents sweep Warren for violent criminals

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WARREN, Ohio -

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have arrested 173 people in a two month long effort to get the most violent criminals off the streets of Warren.

 Operation Spring Thunder took place from March 24 to May 24 in the city of Warren. Daily operations ranged from U.S. Marshals fugitive round-ups, 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.  Information gathered by officers, agents, troopers and marshals was redistributed daily throughout the groups. The goal of the operation was to focus on violent offenders who are causing the majority of the violent crime within the City of Warren.

According to a news release from Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel, key highlights of the operation included:

  • 157 physical arrests and 16 surrender arrests
  • 14 firearms and 150 rounds of ammunition seized.
  • $3,110 in U.S. currency seized
  • Narcotic seizures of crack, heroin and marijuana
  • More than 100 parole visits resulted in 27 parole violation arrests.
  • More than $16,000 in fines/costs collected as a result of arrests.

In addition, members working the operation were some of the first law enforcement officers to respond to the Trumbull County Jail Correction Officer hostage standoff on April 23, 2014.

Spring Thunder Top 3 Arrests:

William Countryman - Aggravated robbery and kidnapping

On May 8, a 74-year-old woman was leaving Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren after visiting her ill husband. Countryman approached the victim's vehicle and ordered her at knife point to get in and drive away. Countryman forced the victim to drive to various locations including a bank. Money could not be obtained at the bank, so Countryman made the victim drive to another ATM location. The victim eventually dropped off Countryman at another location. The victim was so traumatized by the event that she had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. The following day, Countryman was arrested by the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force hiding in a closet on Comstock Avenue. Countryman is currently facing more than 20 years in prison for the charges.

Yahya Bilal, aka John Barnes  - Dangerous drugs, possession of weapon

On April 2, the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force received information that fugitive Yahya Bilal, aka John Barnes, was residing at 327 Pratt St, Niles. Bilal has a lengthy violent criminal history and was currently wanted several agencies.  With the assistance of Niles Police, task force agents entered the Pratt St residence and apprehended Bilal hiding in a crawl space above the basement stairs. A Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun, shotgun shells, .9 mm ammo, and digital scales were seized. Also arrested at the residence was Leon Calbert, who was on probation with the Trumbull County Probation Department and had a warrant out of the Warren Municipal Court. Bilal is now in federal custody.

Levar Allen - Weapons under disability, receiving stolen property, probation violation. possession of cocaine

On April 10, the Ohio State Highway patrol requested assistance from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force at a traffic stop on Palmyra Road.  Troopers found crack cocaine and a firearm in one of the vehicles. Further investigation revealed that another firearm, a Colt .45 cal semi-auto handgun, which had been stolen from a house in Geauga County, was traded to Levar Allen for drugs.  Allen was found to be on probation with the Trumbull County Drug Court. The task force and an agent from the probation department searched Allen's residence where they recovered three handguns, including the stolen Colt .45, ammunition, digital scales, and $1843 in U.S. Currency.

Agencies participating in Operation Spring Thunder included: 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 (HIDTA), Trumbull and Ashtabula Group (TAG), Trumbull County Jail, Trumbull County Probation, Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office, Warren Police Department, Warren Municipal Court, United States Attorney's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the United States Marshals Service.

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