Tulia-style drug bust draws suspicion in Wichita Falls

Alleged Tulia kingpin, Joe Welton Moore

The good folks in Wichita Falls, Texas are celebrating the arrest of 44 drug kingpins, with four or five additional arrests waiting in the wings. 

“It’s a good number of arrests, but the reality is there are probably still five-times as many of these types of criminals out there,” Sheriff David Duke told the Wichita Falls Times Record News. “It’s a scary thing to think that this stuff is being sold in our neighborhoods, near our children. A lot of these dealers are armed because of competition with other dealers. And many will steal, rob and commit financial crimes to facilitate their operations.”

No one associated with the infamous Tulia drug sting of 1999 can read these words without recalling the proud pronouncements of Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart and his undercover man, Tom Coleman.

If you’re guessing that three-quarters of the arrestees are African-American, the Wichita Falls paper was kind enough to publish their mug shots in living color.  Frequent references to “manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance” suggests that we are generally dealing with methamphetamine cases.

Many of the adulatory submissions to the comments section are vintage Tulia, but there’s a big difference.  Twelve years have passed since the big Tulia roundup, and public skepticism has grown considerably.  Consider this astute comment:

I support getting hard drugs off the streets, but your just looking at the “44 busted” title and not looking deeper into the story. Of the photos and names listed today, 34 of them were busted for “under 1 gram”, added together, that’s less than 2 table spoons. 3 were arrested for non-drug related charges. Only 2 listed were actually carrying any “weight”. How much money did it cost for this multi-department operation? While we cut funding to education?  The aim isn’t to clean up the streets, its to fill the jail so that they can approach the city again to request the funding to build a new jail. A request the city has previously declined. The war on drugs has failed, it will always fail, where there is a demand, there will be a supply, and someone will step up to provide that supply.

A surprising number of readers understood that few of those arrested were getting rich off the drug trade, many of them (possibly most) are drug users moving a little product to support their habits, and that the pictures of the folks who are really financing  the illegal drug trade in Wichita Falls won’t be found among the mug shots. 

Several readers also understand that this drug bust, even if it proves to be by-the-book in every respect, will do nothing to reduce the availability of illegal drugs in their town.

These sentiments rocked the lock-em-up folks back on their heels.  If sending dozens of user/dealers to the Texas Gulag for a decade or more doesn’t serve as a deterrent, what will? 

Some advocated paying informants to rat on their neighbors (they were informed that this is standard procedure).  Others suggested that an Arizona-style tent city, or asset forfeiture would teach the bad guys a lesson.  They were informed that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards rules out the tent city idea, and that asset forfeiture is a routine (and frequently abused) practice in Texas. 

Tragically, no one on either side of the war on drugs debate acknowledged that the folks in the mug shots are children of God and American citizens in good standing; in all the comments, the defendants are faceless and heartless thugs. 

But I urge you spend a few moments looking at the pictures published in the Wichita Falls paper.  These folks (especially the older folks) clearly have a sad history behind them–methamphetamine has clearly worked its magic.  The desperation in the eyes of several arrestees suggests that their biggest concern is finding their next hit.  

These are broken people, folks.  Are they fully responsible for their plight?  Yes.  Are we fully responsible?  Yes.  Their damnation will not be our salvation, it will simply nudge us all a bit closer to hell.

5 thoughts on “Tulia-style drug bust draws suspicion in Wichita Falls

  1. I think that consumption of pot would be reduced by making it legal and controlling sales to minors like cigarettes plus taxes. Plus, I think it is important to provide stress relief and stupid to pretend that people don’t need some sort of stress relief. I’m no expert on speed, but I am addicted to caffeine. I have to make special efforts to make sure I don’t drink too much coffee.

    A few days ago a friend of an acquaintance committed suicide with his own gun supposedly because he couldn’t get “Adderall”. Apparently there is a black market of people selling their own prescriptions. This guy offed himself because he had bought Adderall in the past and then his supply was cut off. I met him a few times. When I first met him about 5 years ago he was really cute — physically attractive. The last time I saw him he was really thin and had red eyes. He was in his 20’s.

  2. Not at all surprised that the mug shots with names show at least 75% minorities (if you count Hispanic as minority) caught up in this bust. I wonder if they had an undercover agent of “integrity and professionalism” working the sting. I wonder how many of these folks had new pickups with big boats parked in their driveways. Wichita Falls voters have failed to approve bond issues for a new jail. The sheriff pointedly reminded, in the WF article, that he would continue to arrest folks even if the jail is full. I guess they can contract them out to Dickens County a few miles up the road where there’s a prison short on inmates. However they’re housed, it’s going to cost taxpayers a lot of money.
    Thanks for the reminder, Alan, that these people are real live human beings made in the image of God just as much as Sheriff Duke or any of the upstanding citizens of WF, Tulia, Hearne, or anywhere else.

  3. Are these people criminals? Why are they off the street? It’s unclear from the charges which were first offenders, but moving violations that can easily cause multiple fatalities are not cause for arrest, and even first time DUI’s in many states are RUR in the morning! I have read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”, recently, and her gifts of academic skills and creativity have summed up the main reason for these arrests (for allegations of selling trace amounts of controlled substances and other related allegations).
    Of course people in any community do not want crime near them, whether caused by drug abuse, drug dealing, the high level trafficking that we have here in the port of Vancouver, or from other causes–whether violent crime, property crime, and other are going up or down. But it’s important, while narratives are what connect people personally to a situation like how people get dragged into Mass Incarceration, statistics are important, like:
    http://uhri.cfenet.ubc.ca/images/Documents/violence-eng.pdf (I don’t know if I can link to this study here) But basically, a direct relationship was found between cash fighting drug crime and level of drug violence. Whenever or wherever the University looked at records of change, the violence in the area went up when drug enforcement funding increased and vice-versa.
    I regret to say that it’s very infrequently that anyone in the US relates the long acceptance of execution and torture of prisoners in US criminal prisons with the easy acceptance of torture on miscellaneous foreign,’non-POW’, and US citizens deemed terrorists now including the accused Bradley Manning. The US is indeed exceptional in having a large proportion of its population who say they are my sisters and brothers in Christ, but who have no interest in the life, rights, and the charity other, much less religious countries, show to their brothers who have done heinous things. Why do so many people think the American health care and criminal justice systems are so superior to all other country’s they need no change?

  4. My husband is one that was arrested (not in the roundup) in Wichita Falls. He had less than $20 and has been struggling to get clean for several years. Thanks to that twenty dollars- he has almost completed 8 mos in our lovely state jail and our $5000 vehicle has been impounded for 1.5 years while they have tried to take it. Except for the vehicle, I am actually thankful to the system for helping him get clean.
    1.He has recieved no drug classes or counseling of any kind. He was told that his stay was too short for that. This is someone who’s been addicted for 30 yrs!
    2. Prior to his arrest, we heard of a dealer who was arrested with ( past prison time for dealing), got a 28 day sentence in rehab!!!

    Our court system in Wichita Falls is so obviously about who you know and how much money you can slip under the table. We hired a lawyer with a great name who just passed the buck. I am so dissapointed in the courts here. I have never been in trouble, always law abiding, now I understand when people talk about the skewed system. It is broken, and noone is trying to fix it.

  5. Wichita Falls is the home of many Confidential Informants that deal and do drugs until the cops pull them over. Then so they can continue to violate the law, the cops attain information from these individuals and let them go. no matter how much “dope” they were busted with. These people not only continue to break the law but remain hidden among stacks of paper work, and continue to make relationships with other dealers knowing that if they do get busted they can just turnover and give up the same people that were putting food on there table. The war on drugs has failed, but the war on the American people was won along time ago.

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