SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – A request last fall from Shinnecock Indian Nation leaders to the local district attorney to conduct a drug investigation on the reservation on April 19 resulted in the arrests of 13 people, including eight reservation residents.
Various drug, weapon and conspiracy charges were filed after law enforcement personnel from several agencies launched a pre-dawn raid at the reservation and nearby towns.
The police described the raid as ”the dismantling of a major narcotics distribution network” on the East End of Long Island.
Seized in the raid were approximately 1 pound of marijuana, ”felon weight crack,” approximately half an ounce of heroin, drug paraphernalia, four cars, eight handguns, eight rifles, eight shotguns, a computer and flat screen monitor, and $1,940 in cash, according to the police report.
The raid was conducted by state police, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, and Probation Department, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Secret Service.
Nine court ordered search warrants, five of them on the Shinnecock reservation, were executed.
Police arrested John A. Miles, 35, of 156 Hampton Ave., Mastic, N.Y., and Terrill Latney, 27, of 2 Bogota Road, Mastic Beach, N.Y., who allegedly supplied ”large quantities of cocaine” to the area. Both were arrested after police searched their residences.
Police alleged that Mile and Latney supplied cocaine to Shinnecock member Awan Gumbs, 26, who lives off the reservation. They alleged that Gumbs was ”the primary supplier of cocaine to the reservation.”
Details about the charges against Miles, Latney or Gumbs were not released.
Reservation residents arrested included Joseph Johnson, 24, charged with second-degree criminal possession of marijuana and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; Michael Morton, 44, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree conspiracy; Damon Wade, 37, criminal sale of a controlled substance and second-degree conspiracy; Nakai Bess, 22; third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and second-degree conspiracy; William I. Bess III, 23, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and second-degree conspiracy; Linee Quinn, 32, second degree conspiracy; Damon Moore, 38, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; and Matthew Smith, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Off reservation arrests included Kristine Goree, 2 Midgie Lane, Hampton Bay, N.Y., charged with second-degree conspiracy; and Kyle Barrett, 38, of Constable Drive, Riverhead, N.Y., charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.
Following the raid, the tribe’s board of trustees – Chairman Randy King, Lance Gumbs and Frederick Bess – issued statement expressing both sadness and hope at the day’s event:
”The people of the Shinnecock Indian Nation have repeatedly asked its leadership to take action against possible criminal activities on our lands, which threaten our way of life. The Board of Trustees stands with the Nation in its resolute determination to provide a safe, drug-free and crime-free environment for our children to grow and develop, for their parents to live in peace and for our elders to enjoy the fruits of their lifetime labors. We asked for the assistance of outside law enforcement agencies to help us accomplish these important goals.
”We are a Tribe, as closely knit as an extended family, and the police action that took place with our consent on our lands, against some of our people, touches every household and causes pain to us all. Today, our people walk with tears in their eyes, knowing that some members of our Family will suffer, but hopeful that the scourge we have been living with is about to come to an end and our community restored to its natural beauty and balance,” the board wrote.
Two of the Shinnecock members arrested – Matthew Smith and Awan Gumbs are, respectively, the sons of Shinnecock Presbyterian Church pastor the Rev. Michael F. Smith, Shinnecock, and trustee member Lance Gumbs.
”It’s been a little rough today,” Lance Gumbs told Indian Country Today concerning the arrest of his son.
”It’s a sad thing. I’ve been an avid opponent of drugs my whole life, but like they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I love my son, and I’ll stand by him, but I cannot condone that type of activity. The tribe will go forward in a positive way. This is very good for the tribe. This is something the people of the nation wanted,” Gumbs said.