Hundreds of fugitives rounded up in midstate

For the fifth year, local law enforcement officials from throughout the country partnered with the United States Marshals Service during the month of June, arresting 35,190 fugitives, as part of operation FALCON 2009.

Officials in Middle Georgia were able to arrest 406 fugitives during the operation, including 23 suspected sex offenders and eight people accused of murder.

Operation FALCON, which stands for Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally, is an effort to serve warrants and get criminals off the streets.

“The goal of Operation Falcon is simple — to make communities safer,” said John Clark, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, in a news release.

Two hundred and seventy-six people were arrested in Macon, 88 in Columbus and 42 in Albany, according to the news release.

One of the biggest catches of the Middle Georgia operation was Gregory Dewayne Miller, who was wanted by the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the death of Melissa Rushing.

Miller, 37, of Merriwood Drive, was charged with murder. He is currently being held in the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center for felony murder. Rushing was beaten to death and her body was set on fire, authorities said.

Autopsy results indicated Rushing died from a beating, facial trauma and asphyxiation.

Deputy U.S. Marshals and law enforcement officials arrested Miller without incident June 5, according to the report.

“We arrested a lot of violent people,” said John Edgar, a deputy U.S. marshal with the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force.

“A lot of these guys who were wanted for aggravated assault use guns,” he said.

The FALCON operation targeted “individuals wanted on felony charges including sexual predators and fugitives wanted for crimes of violence,” according to the news release.

Edgar said officials used different strategies to find suspects. The department uses analysts to search databases to find possible locations for fugitives.

“A lot of times, we’ll find out who their girlfriend is and go to their house,” Edgar said.

A lot of the work involves going out and talking to people who might know a suspect’s whereabouts, authorities said.

While the operation is going on, marshals try to keep it quiet. “I was told not to let this out to the press during the operation,” he said.

The U.S. Marshals, which have an office in Macon, deputize local law enforcement officials to work with them.

The marshals’ work takes a load off of local law enforcement.

“We’ve got file cabinets full of warrants,” said Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena. “Essentially, where they have the finances, we have the personnel,” Modena said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

In a bust with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals uncovered 6.6 ounces of methamphetamine, valued at $18,000, 14 shotguns and rifles, two handguns, $10,000 in cash, 14 marijuana plants and two surveillance cameras at the 700 block of Lower River Road in Hawkinsville.

Official uncovered the illicit materials while serving a warrant. David Hodges, Robert Evans and John Thompson were arrested for allegedly trafficking methamphetamine, according to the news release.

To contact writer Eric Newcomer, call 744-4494.