Sedona AZ (June 26, 2012) – The Yavapai County Arizona Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and law enforcement authorities in Yavapai County participated in a joint fugitive apprehension initiative, termed Operation Independence, from June 18 through 22, 2012.
The Arizona joint task force operation targeted fugitives charged with felonies across Yavapai County, and resulted in over twenty-five (25) felony arrests and the seizure of salable amounts of narcotics and dangerous drugs. The task force cleared a total of eighty-two (82) warrants which include fugitives already found in-custody and or deceased.
While avoiding capture, fugitives often engage in additional criminal activities. Operation Independence, taking place just weeks before our nation’s Independence Day, was envisioned with the goal of taking violent offenders off the streets to protect the community from further victimization.
Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said, “I appreciated the opportunity to partner with the U.S. Marshals and a majority of the law enforcement agencies in Yavapai County to find and arrest these fugitives in a coordinated effort. The fugitives saw firsthand how law enforcement agencies worked together sharing information and resources to effect the arrests.”
U.S. Marshal David Gonzales added, ”Through close cooperation with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, and our other law enforcement partners, our communities have been made safer as a direct result of this operation. It is important that fugitives on the run are taken off the streets as soon as possible, as they commit numerous crimes in order to provide for their day-to-day needs.”
Arrested during the operation was Nerphyne Sittingbear, who, during a domestic dispute, unlawfully imprisoned his girlfriend. Sittingbear fled to Colorado, where, for almost one year, he managed to elude authorities.
Operation Independence Partners developed information pointing to Sittingbear’s whereabouts and subsequently contacted the local United States Marshals Service office in Denver, Colorado. That same day, Sittingbear was arrested and is pending extradition to Arizona.
Operation Independence Partners also tracked fugitive Jared Smith across the Prescott Arizona area. Smith was wanted for the unlawful possession of dangerous drugs, and was suspected of being involved in the continued sale of heroin while on the run from authorities.
In their relentless pursuit of Smith, Operation Independence Partners encountered and arrested several of his criminal associates, many of whom attempted to hinder law enforcement’s efforts to locate Smith. The joint task force finally located Smith at a Prescott Arizona residence where he was hiding out with his girlfriend, also wanted on a felony charge of violating probation, and a multiple felon who had served time in prison, Scott Stautz. The trio, barricaded inside, refused to exit the residence when ordered but surrendered after a brief stand-off and were subsequently arrested. A search of the residence revealed salable quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, and paraphernalia.
The Operation Independence joint task force involved approximately thirty (30) law enforcement officers from nine (9) contributing agencies including the U.S. Marshal’s and the YCSO. Local Arizona police agencies involved were Jerome, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Cottonwood, Camp Verde Marshall’s Office, Sedona, and the Yavapai Apache Indian Tribe.
The United States Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Annually, U.S. Marshals arrest more than fifty per cent (50 %) of all federal fugitives and serve more federal warrants than all other federal agencies combined. For more information on USMS Fifteen Most Wanted fugitives and USMS Major Cases, go to www.usmarshals.gov.