South Fulton police made major drug bust, but no one went to jail because of COVID-19

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Police in South Fulton say they made a major drug bust, but nobody went to jail. And it’s not because there weren’t any suspects.

City of South Fulton police Lt. Shannon McKesey told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that during part of a Christmastime crime crackdown called Operation Santa’s Helpers, authorities hit one house that contained ecstasy pills, marijuana cocaine and five guns.

The guns were a particular problem because of the alleged drug activity and because one of the suspects was a convicted felon.

“It was an alleged drug house?” Winne asked McKesey.

“Yes,” McKesey said.

But the lieutenant said officers encountered another potentially lethal threat at the house besides the guns and drugs.

One of the suspects reported having COVID-19 and was clearly symptomatic, along with two others.

The rest of the seven suspects had been exposed to the virus.

So McKesey said she made a command decision: charge them with crimes but not take them to jail.

“It was a decision that needed to be made,” McKesey said.

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The lieutenant told Winne that she made that decision for the protection of law enforcement as well as the difficulty involved in taking the suspects to jail while they were sick.

“They were released on a copy, meaning that they were still arrested but they still have to go to court and answer the charges at a later date,” McKesey said.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said the Fulton County Jail can accept suspects with COVID-19. He said all suspects are tested when they arrive at the jail, and if positive, they will be quarantined.

He said whether to arrest suspects in a given situation is at the officer’s discretion.

Labat said he supports city of South Fulton police Chief Keith Meadows and his department.

“They’ve always made solid decisions,” Labat told Winne.

Labat said just his office began a partnership Wednesday with Emory University to test all of the roughly 3,000 Fulton County Jail inmates already in custody who do not refuse, as well as all sheriff’s office staff who want to be tested, with results available in 24 hours.

McKesey said 50 people did go to jail during the 10-day operation, including five gang members and three wanted persons.

Police confiscated 20 guns, more than 2700 grams of marijuana, 32 grams of cocaine, 202 pills of MDMA, and 102 milliliters of promethazine.

“It was a great success. We felt like we deterred a lot of crime,” McKesey said.

She told Winne the same day as the execution of the search warrant in this, police encountered a similar situation at a second alleged drug house.

City of South Fulton police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the South Metro SWAT team all participated in the raids.

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