SWAT team nabs gun suspect
Herald-Guide FILE PHOTO of training exercise.
Arrested without incident in the dramatic bust - which included the use of 25 sheriff’s deputies and an armored personnel carrier - was Jermaine Surtain, 28, of 5732 Tullis Drive in New Orleans.
The suspect reportedly was in a house in the 500 block of Gassen Street, with some but not all of the missing fireams that included 115 handguns, four shotguns, two assault rifles.
It is unclear what the suspect planned to do with the guns, and a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office says no motive has been established” in the case.
Also jailed was Alvin C. Hickingbottom, who, according to reports, lives in the house where Surtain and the guns were found.
Hickingbottom, 29, of 517 Gassen Street, was charged with accessory to aggravated burglary after the fact.
Champagne says the bust was carefully orchestrated to prevent a shootout with the suspect and also to avoid frightening neighbors.
"We planned very carefully. We did everything in our power not to disrupt the neighborhood or to alarm anybody and to ensure the safety of our officers,” he says.
"We relied on our special response unit - our SWAT team - because of information we received from Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office and ATF about the number of stolen guns that the suspect had in the house.
“We were fortunate that both individuals came out of the residence quietly and didn't struggle with us at all.”
A spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Col. John Fortunato, says Surtain “didn’t give police any motive for the crime.”
"A lot of guns were stolen, but Surtain did not make any comments as to what he planned on doing with them," Fortunato told the Herald-Guide.
An eyewitness to the Sunday, Jan. 7, bust told the Herald-Guide exclusively that the operation went down smoothly - but was harrowing.
“I heard a loud noise and looked out of my window,” said the eyewitness who requesed anonymity.
“I saw the armored vehicle that pulled right in front of my son's truck. The SWAT team members came pouring out of it.
“I didn't know what was going on. I yelled for my husband. I was scared to death. My husband went outside and a SWAT person told him to get back inside immediately.
“I opened the front door and the SWAT person told me to go back inside. I told him that my son was in his truck.
He then waved for my son to get out of the truck. He got out and ran inside our house.
“He was white as a ghost. After a few minutes a SWAT team member knocked on the door and told us we had to leave right then.
He told us to call the sheriff’s office to find out when it would be safe for us to come back home.
“My husband asked what was going on and he said, ‘We have a situation.’”
Nobody was injured in the arrest, said Sheriff Champagne, noting that “we took a lot of time in putting together this operation in order to minimize the danger to neighbors and our officers.”
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