On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Front Royal Police detectives initiated an investigation regarding the solicitation of minors in the Warren County/Front Royal area. Detectives started a proactive approach to apprehend individuals soliciting underage victims for sexual purposes.
An undercover operation ensued, and an adult male began soliciting one of our detectives who he believed to be an underage female for photographs and sexually explicit material. The adult male suspect sent sexually explicit materials to the detective. The initial conversation was unsolicited and started by the offender in this case.
Police identified the suspect as 20-year-old Front Royal resident, Daniel Currence. Currence was arrested on 04/16/2021 and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail. Currence was ordered to be held on a $5,000 secured bond with a scheduled court date of May 20, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. We request anyone with information regarding the exploitation of a minor to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judge will hear oral arguments in reconsideration of Meza appointment decision
In an April 29th letter to attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants in the legal challenge of the appointment of Jacob Meza to the Front Royal Town Council four days after the term he chose not to run for re-election to in November had expired, Judge William W. Sharp alerted both sides that he will hear oral arguments on the plaintiff motion for reconsideration of the court decision that the appointment was legal.
Citing scheduling and other factors, Sharp noted he was staying his Order of Dismissal of the plaintiff’s case until those oral arguments can be heard. A date has yet to be set as counsel and court availability is still being determined.
In his letter to plaintiff Paul Aldrich’s counsel David Downes and Town and Meza attorney Heather Bardot, Judge Sharp explained: “Not a small part of my decision to enter the stay order and give one last chance for oral argument, is my realization that I gave a very poor articulation of my reasons for my original decision, and I do not want to make that mistake again. It is, therefore, my intention to give a written explanation of my decision, whichever way it goes, in which my words are more carefully expressed.”
As reported in our story on the April 7 hearing and court ruling “Judge rules Town Charter Section 47 does not prohibit council appointments for one year” Judge Sharp seized on the inclusion of the words “appointed or elected” in Town Charter Section 47 upon which the plaintiff case was based, in ruling for the defense stance that Meza’s appointment was not prohibited for one year from the end of his last term on council.
The relevant Section 47 passage reads: “No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter,” continuing to note for an unexplained reason an exception for the position of Town Treasurer.
As previously reported by The Royal Examiner, “In her Demurrer filing for dismissal, Bardot pointed to Section 6D and related wording on filling council vacancies, such as the one created by Councilman Chris Holloway’s November 2020 election to mayor. ‘The council may fill any vacancy that occurs within the membership of council for the unexpired term, provided that such vacancy is taken within 45 days of the office becoming vacant,’ Section 6D states. No reference to a one-year hiatus per appointment is made here, Bardot noted.”
Pointing to the words “or elected” in Section 47 of the Town Charter, Judge Sharp noted that obviously in the 84 years since the Charter was created, it had not been used to prevent council members from running for re-election. Thus, he contended Section 47 was not the applicable section of the charter at issue in internal appointments, siding with Bardot’s conclusion that Sections 6 and 9 of the Charter were the applicable sections on council appointments, rather than Section 47.
However, plaintiff counsel Downes argued that the framers of the 1937 Town Charter were using the words “appointed” or “elected” synonymously referencing achieving a consensus on internal appointments, and not referencing general elections decided by citizen’s votes. The framers’ intent was to avoid the fact or appearance of cronyism by political allies within council, Downes asserted.
Some supporters of the plaintiff case have noted Meza might have faced an uphill battle had he run for re-election in 2020 after alienating a segment of his support base during his last term. That lost base appeared in reaction to Meza’s reversal of initial recusals from discussion of his employer Valley Health’s request for a municipal loan through the EDA to finance the construction of the new Warren Memorial Hospital without a Maternity Unit. When his vote was needed to achieve the necessary council majority to approve the loan, Meza reversed course, claiming no conflict of interest to prevent his voting. He did note the support of that stance by the town attorney.
Meza cited job and family time constraints in explaining his decision not to run for re-election in 2020.
As to delays in finalizing the order to dismiss the plaintiff case due to any lack of clarity in verbally rendering his April 7 ruling, on April 29 Judge Sharp observed, “In a case of this complexity and magnitude, I normally would have taken your arguments under advisement on April 7 and prepared a carefully worded final decision. As I stated in the courtroom, I wanted to give the parties a prompt decision to prevent ongoing uncertainty. It is evident from reviewing your subsequent pleadings that I may have created more problems than I solved, and I do want to clarify a few points so that we do not go chasing down rabbit holes, and miss the core issues.”
And one might guess that among core issues during the oral arguments for reconsideration will be the plaintiff counsel’s observation that a council member’s term has yet to expire when they are running for re-election. Thus, if re-elected, one term flows seamlessly into the next without any real-time out of office.
It might also be relevant to the court’s reconsideration to establish whether, in the intervening 84 years since the Town Charter’s 1937 establishment, any former council members have been reappointed within a year of electing to leave office by choice or having been removed by the will of the people at the general election.
Sheriff’s Office seizes Fentanyl laced drugs, street value $40,000
On April 28, 2021, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Special Problem and Drug Enforcement (S.P.A.D.E.) Units conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for a speeding violation. During the traffic stop investigation, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office K-9 was utilized for a free air sniff. The K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics odor and a subsequent search of the vehicle was conducted.
During that search, the passenger was found to possess approximately 1,000 imitation Oxycodone pills containing FENTANYL, with a street value of $40,000. This suspect was arrested and transported to the RSW Regional Jail and charged with VA code 46.2-248 Possession with Intent to Distribute Schedule I/II Narcotics.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the community that FENTANYL is a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more potent than morphine and a lethal dose can be as little as 2 milligrams. Again, medications not obtained from legitimate doctors and pharmacists can be laced with FENTANYL.
Please, if anyone has any information that would lead to the seizure of these or any dangerous drugs, contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and ask to speak with an Investigator assigned to the S.P.A.D.E. Unit.
Armed, barricaded subject incident in Frederick County ends peacefully
On 4/23/21 the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded to 2492-46 Martinsburg Pike in regard to a domestic situation involving a firearm. The caller advised that Michael McGhee was intoxicated and that he had taken her vehicle, crashed it, and then returned to the residence where an argument ensued where McGhee stated he wanted to kill himself. Dispatchers were informed that the female caller took the couple’s 6-year-old child and fled the residence after McGhee grabbed a hunting-type rifle and fired a single round inside the house.
Arriving units on the scene set up a perimeter and evacuated neighboring residences out of an abundance of caution for the public’s safety. Once securing the perimeter, loudspeaker announcements were made to instruct McGhee to come out of the house unarmed without success. A command post was established and, after a situational briefing, the FCSO Crisis Negotiations Team (CNT) and SWAT team were both activated and responded to the call.
Once SWAT and CNT were on scene, a portable two-way communications device was deployed into the residence in an attempt to communicate with McGhee. Numerous attempts to contact McGhee via the portable device, his cellphone, and ongoing loudspeaker announcements were all unsuccessful. McGhee’s father, who was now on the scene, also attempted numerous times to talk his son out of the house with negative results. A portable robotic device from the Winchester P.D.’s SWAT team was deployed but was unable to maneuver through all areas inside the dwelling
to verify McGhee’s location and condition.
In a final attempt to avoid a forced entry and possible armed confrontation with McGhee, chemical agents were deployed to get McGhee to exit the residence peacefully. After the first disbursement appeared unsuccessful, a pole camera was deployed through a bedroom window. A heat source was detected and appeared to show a person on the bed hiding under the covers.
SWAT member’s made entry into the house and toward that bedroom door. While moving forward a door that was cracked open was slammed shut. Again, trying to avoid a possible armed conflict, SWAT was pulled out and another deployment of chemical agents was made into that specific room.
A few moments after this deployment, McGhee came to the bedroom window and advised he was coming out and proceeded to exit out of the bedroom window where he was taken into custody without incident. McGhee was checked out by EMS, where he refused medical treatment, before being taken to the adult detention facility.
Warrants for Felony discharge of a firearm in a dwelling and brandishing a firearm were obtained and served with McGhee being held without bond.
Sheriff Lenny Millholland is pleased with the handling of this situation and relieved that everyone involved is safe. “I can’t express my gratitude enough for the professionalism displayed by our people today,” said the Sheriff, noting this is the second such type of incident in the past few weeks. Sheriff Millholland concluded “While we hope for a time when such things no longer take place, the sad truth is it can happen anywhere. That’s why we will continue to acquire necessary equipment and provide the proper training to address any such type of incident.”
Four members of cocaine trafficking organization arrested following investigation
Four members of a cocaine trafficking organization were arrested on Thursday, April 15, 2021, following a yearlong investigation by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force. Last April, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force identified members of a cocaine trafficking organization operating in Winchester and Frederick County, VA. Through the course of the investigation, task force officers completed numerous controlled purchases of cocaine from multiple suspects within the organization. As a result, approximately 203 grams of cocaine with a street value of $9,100.00 was seized by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force over the last year. On April, 15, 2021, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained and executed search warrants at four of the suspect’s residences located in Winchester and Frederick County, VA. Approximately 308 grams of cocaine with a street value of $14,300.00, 29 grams of methamphetamine with a street value of $1,300.00, 9 firearms, and $5,578.00 in currency was seized from the suspect’s residences.
Samuel Resendiz Hernandez, 24, of Winchester, VA, was arrested and charged with possession with the intent to distribute a schedule I/II controlled substance, two counts of distribution of a schedule I/ll controlled substance, and conspiracy.
Norberto Bautista Robles, 25, of Winchester, VA, was arrested and charged with two counts of distribution of a schedule I/ll controlled substance, two counts of possession of a schedule I/ll controlled substance, possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule I/ll controlled substance, and possession of a firearm by a person wo is not a citizen of the United States.
Charles Arthur Perkins, Jr, 68, of Winchester, VA, was arrested and charged with possession with the intent to distribute a schedule I/ll controlled substance, possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule I/ll controlled substance, and conspiracy.
Rafael Velazquez-Bautista, 25, of Winchester, VA, was arrested and charged with distribution of a schedule I/ll controlled substance.
Additional charges against the suspects and other co-conspirators are forthcoming. The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force was assisted by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Winchester Police Department, Virginia State Police, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during Thursday’s operation.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from Clarke, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office. The Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force is a HIDTA funded initiative.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office launches new enforcement blitz against speeding
Warren County Sheriff’s Office today launched a tough new speed enforcement blitz for the County of Warren and Town of Front Royal under the tagline: “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine.” The intensified enforcement effort against speeding drivers underscores the severity of the problem, both locally and across the nation.
“Speeding translates to death on our roadways. It greatly reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around another vehicle, a hazardous object, or an unexpected curve. Speeding drivers put themselves, their passengers and other drivers at tremendous risk,” said Lieutenant Steve Collins.
In 2015, speeding was a contributing factor in 27 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S. and more than 9,500 lives were lost in such crashes, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“During the “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” blitz, deputies will intensify enforcement of posted speed limits in Warren County and Town of Front Royal. We’ll stop and ticket anyone caught speeding—especially on John Marshall Highway, Remount Road, Winchester Road and Stonewall Jackson Highway, where most of our speed-related crashes occur,” said Lieutenant Steve Collins.
Fully 17 percent of all speeding-related traffic fatalities occurred on local roads — where the posted speed limits were 55 miles per hour or under. According to NHTSA, a crash on a road with a speed limit of 65 mph or greater is more than twice as likely to result in a fatality than a crash on a road with a speed limit of 45 or 50 mph and nearly five times as likely as a crash on a road with a speed limit of 40 mph or below. About 15 percent of the country’s speeding-related fatalities occur on interstate highways each year.
A NHTSA research report, “Analysis of Speeding-Related Fatal Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes,” shows that a major proportion of fatal, speeding-related single-vehicle crashes occur on rural roadways.
Across America in 2015, speeding was a factor in 17 percent of all fatal crashes on dry roads, and in 21 percent of those occurring on wet roads.
“Driving above the posted speed limit or speeding in bad weather conditions dramatically increases the probability that a motorist will be involved in a crash,” said Lieutenant Steve Collins.
“During this enforcement blitz, deputies will be out targeting and ticketing speeding drivers,” said Lieutenant Steve Collins. “Our goal is to save lives, and we’re putting all drivers on alert – the posted speed limit IS THE LAW. No more warnings and no more excuses. When it comes to speeding: Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine.”
NHTSA considers a crash speeding-related if the driver was charged with exceeding the posted speed limit or if the driver was driving too fast for conditions at the time.
For more information, please visit trafficsafetymarketing.gov.
Methamphetamine trafficker arrested after multi-jurisdictional investigation
On April 9, Christopher Shane Gonder, 33, of Waynesboro, PA, was arrested following a multi-jurisdictional investigation in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. The arrest was the result of an ongoing investigation involving the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, Maryland’s Washington County Narcotics Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration Hagerstown Resident Office. In December of last year, members of the Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force identified Christopher Shane Gonder and other members of a methamphetamine trafficking organization operating in the Winchester, Frederick County, Warren County, and Front Royal areas.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force identified Gonder as a leader within the organization and knew Gonder and other members would routinely travel between Virginia and Maryland selling and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine. During the investigation, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force completed multiple controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Gonder in Frederick and Warren Counties. Approximately ½ pound of methamphetamine with a street value of $6,000.00 was purchased from Gonder between December and March.
On April 9, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force arranged to purchase a ½ pound of methamphetamine from Christopher Gonder. When Gonder arrived at the prearranged location, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office attempted to arrest Gonder. Gonder fled the scene driving an Infiniti G35 coupe. Gonder’s vehicle was pursued from Warren County into Shenandoah County. Gonder’s vehicle became disabled on Back Road near Toms Brook. Gonder was taken into custody by deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Task Force Officers.
Following his arrest, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained and executed a search warrant on Gonder’s vehicle. After a search, approximately ½ pound of Methamphetamine with a street value of $6,000.00, 16 fluid ounces of Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) with a street value of $3,000.00, 5 grams of fentanyl with a street value of $500.00, and $3,500.00 in US Currency was seized. GHB is a powerful depressant that affects the central nervous system. GHB is commonly referred to as a “date rape drug” on the street. In addition, members of Maryland’s Washington County Narcotics Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration Hagerstown Resident Office executed a search warrant on a storage unit being rented by Gonder in Maryland. Approximately ½ pound of methamphetamine with a street value of $6,000.00, and $10,000.00 US Currency was seized.
Gonder was charged with three counts of distribution of a schedule I/II controlled substance, two counts of transporting more than one ounce of a schedule I/ll controlled substance into the Commonwealth with the intent to sell or distribute, and possession of a firearm while in possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance. Additional charges against Gonder and co-conspirators are forthcoming. The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force was assisted by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, Front Royal Police Department, and Strasburg Police Department.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from Clarke, Frederick, Page, and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.