BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) - Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin faces federal drug conspiracy charges for alleged dealings with cocaine and crack going back to 2006. But in 2004, WIS News 10 followed Sheriff Melvin on a raid to catch dealers of those very same drugs.
SLED and the FBI arrested Melvin and six other Bishopville residents early Saturday morning. They're charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine since 2006. Just two years before that, our cameras taped Melvin taunting suspected drug dealers and holding a container of crack.
The 2004 raid was the first in almost two years in Lee County, where Melvin had been sheriff since 2001. Melvin's deputies used four-wheelers, patrol cars and a National Guard helicopter equipped with cameras to search for crack cocaine dealers.
"That's a big problem," Melvin said. "I hear complaints about it every day. From Lee to Kershaw, it's never stopped."
The first stop on the supposedly-surprise raid was a place known as Egypt. But just before the sheriff got there, he found out the suspects were tipped off. Deputies combed the area as the helicopter searched the woods from the sky. Drugs were found in the trash, but there were no arrests.
"Tell them I'm coming every day, every night," Melvin taunted one suspected dealer. "They just opened up a can of whoop-ass they can't put a lid on."
The team continued to another hot-spot. This time no one knew they were coming. From above, the helicopter spotted men running from police. Deputies chased a few, but the four-wheelers took a wrong turn and showed up seconds too late and only one person was arrested. The others dropped their drugs before they got there. Deputies searched the woods where they find the drugs without their owners.
"It's worth about $100," said Melvin, holding a pill bottle containing crack cocaine.
"It's a very slow process," Melvin commented about his department's war on drugs. "You can give it up and let them win or you can keep fighting."
Sheriff Melvin said the raid was just one battle in a larger war -- in which Melvin is now accused of helping both sides.