U.S. Marshals in Southeastern Arizona just completed Operation Southern Star IV this past week, rounding up violent offenders, fugitives, and even a prison escapee with a history of robbing banks. The fugitive hunt targeted some of the most violent felons and narcotics offenders in Arizona, particularly in rural regions of the state.
“No matter where you go, we’re going to find you,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Nate Alexander. “It sends a clear message that regardless of where fugitives may seek refuge, we will track them down and apprehend them.”
The Marshals led a task force made up of 18 law enforcement agencies from across the state. Over five days, Operation Southern Star resulted in 72 arrests. The operation began on September 14 and 15, when 31 arrests were made in Pima County, but then expanded in scope. Before the operation began, Arizona police and sheriff departments submitted felony warrants to the Marshals service. For instance, the Graham County Sheriff’s Department submitted 18 felony warrants, while the Pinal County Sheriff’s submitted 13. With the Marshals’ help, every warrant resulted in a successful arrest.
In 2013, about 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug crimes alone; however, the Marshals service primarily goes after the worst of the worst. The arrested men include suspects with warrants as well as dangerous fugitives, like the convicted bank robber Deandre Tompkins, who escaped from an Alabama prison work detail this August. Then there’s Thomas Rownan, whom Sierra Vista police are charging with a variety of sex crimes involving minors. Two men were also arrested in connection with a drive-by shooting in Tuscon, while others were picked up for probation violations.
The Marshals have an office in Tuscon with more than 50 agents, including 30 who work on the Arizona WANTED Task Force. The WANTED unit includes law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol and the Arizona Department of Corrections, but is led by the Marshals Service.
Alexander says the office conducts similar operations several times a year, and the Marshals plan to conduct another sweep later this year. When the Marshals visited homes during Operation Southern Star, not every stop resulted in a dramatic arrest. They also engaged in so-called “knock and talks,” wherein they try to discover new information about a fugitive’s current location.