- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

2:36 p.m.

Nearly 11,000 sex offenders, gang members and other fugitives were swept up in what the Justice Department yesterday called a sting targeting the “worst of the worst” criminals on the run.

Last week’s roundup, led by the U.S. Marshals Service, included Allen Marksberry, an unregistered sex offender in Rickman, Tenn., who was baby-sitting several young children when he was arrested on Oct. 24.

Also nabbed were Demetrius Avery Jackson, an accused cop killer in Birmingham, Ala., and Eric Dewayne Meneese, a Crips gang member, in Nashville, Tenn.

The weeklong sting, code-named Operation Falcon III, also led to the shooting death of a Georgia fugitive who was killed by authorities as he came out of his house, officials said. Additionally, the mother of a fugitive in Florida fired at — but missed — police approaching her home. Both incidents are under investigation, said John F. Clark, director of the Marshals Service.

The roundup, in 24 states east of the Mississippi River, targeted “the worst of the worst fugitive felons in the country,” Attorney General Albert Gonzales said at a District press conference.

“America’s neighborhoods are safer today, thanks to Operation Falcon III,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Two earlier stings — Falcons I and II — were held in April over the past two years. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Clark denied that next week’s elections played any part in scheduling the latest crackdown.

“I can assure you that the coordination of getting 3,000-plus officers and agents and everybody together to do this just takes a lot of coordination,” Mr. Clark said.

In all, Mr. Gonzales said officials caught 10,733 fugitives — including 1,659 sex offenders, 364 gang members and thousands of others sought on kidnapping, robbery, burglary, carjacking and weapons charges. More than 230 weapons were seized.

Those totals represent a fraction of doors knocked on, liquor store drive-bys, construction site surveillances and tips chased down by agents during the weeklong sweep. Finding the fugitives — even at their homes in the early-morning hours — proved to be a hit-or-miss mission for federal, state and local authorities.

A six-hour sting in the District last week, for example, netted none of the accused drug dealers sought by a team of seven agents from the U.S. Marshals Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; State Department; and the Metropolitan Police Department.

“He was there a week or so ago,” muttered Marshals Inspector Robert Hoffmaster after a pre-daybreak search of a house for an accused drug dealer.

Of the sex offenders nabbed, 971 had failed to register with authorities as required by law — what Mr. Gonzales called the largest number ever captured in a single law enforcement effort.

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