They know the way in, and they know the way out. They’ve marked a target and have taken a mental note of every shrub, vehicle and sight line. They have all the necessary safety equipment and weaponry needed, most of it strapped to their bodies in some way or another. In the last few hours of strategic planning and getting final signatures on the search warrant, they make one invaluable decision no matter the danger — they’re all coming home.

On Wednesday they did — twice.

The SRT executed two warrants Wednesday, raking in more than 32 pounds of marijuana from two residences in Huntsville.

In the first bust, at 1400 block of 13th Street, just after 2 p.m., the team arrested one suspect, Tedrick Ramon Winfrey, 25, of Huntsville, after discovering a conspicuous cardboard box. He’s being held at the Walker County jail for a third-degree felony possession charge.

“After a several-day investigation, we executed the warrant,” Sheriff Clint McRae told the Item. “After searching the residence, we found a large cardboard box in the hall closet that had in it, approximately 30 pounds of marijuana in individual baggies.

“Based on our intelligence, we knew the dope was in the house, and finding it reassured our probable cause warrant.”

During the search, an all-too-curious neighbor, Letief Sabre Johnson, 22, also wound up going to jail for possession, a state jail felony.

“A secondary investigation spun off the first. He came in behind our officers and almost came through the front door, just peeking around,” McRae said. “It was an officer safety issue, so the second investigation, also probable cause, led us into (a neighboring apartment).”

A sweep of that apartment turned up less than one pound of marijuana hidden under a bed.

SRT officers were happy to have pulled the ultimately large quantity of marijuana off the streets, a value of $15,000 to $18,000, and were elated the rest of the afternoon. Officers also seized $1,600 in alleged drug money. So began the paperwork and inventory in the evidence room. Some of them decided to call it a day and head home.

Then, another bit of information stirred in the office. A possibility to nab another dealer and possibly another large quantity of dope would have to be met with quick reaction from the WCSO.

“We don’t want to lose our evidence,” an unnamed officer said, tearing down the hallway to begin the process for yet another search warrant. Four hours later, the team was assembled again, this time with the knowledge that night falling could mean a heightened sense of danger.

Rendezvousing at an undisclosed staging area, officers began again the process of a second bust in one day. There were no overly expressive faces or even a sense of excitement as nearly 15 men readied themselves. But there was a sense of urgency, of getting down to business. Calls to wives, “Honey, I’ll be later than I thought,” were made, often met with disappointment on the connecting end.

Then it took no time to load SRT vehicles and begin the extraordinarily quiet caravan to the second location. Within seconds, the first rattling noise — “SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, SEARCH WARRANT!”

WHAM — a battering ram through the door.

BANG — a diversion tactic sounds off like a shotgun blast.

CRACK, CRACK, CRACK — shattering window glass.

SILENCE — deafening.

Movement in the house was still, and onlookers do nothing but hold their breath until the first signs that everything would be OK. After gaining control of the home, located at 419 Gibbs St., the search was on for the drugs at two residences on the property.

“Cell phone towers are going down all over town right now,” said county assistant district attorney Jack Choate, who was on the scene Wednesday. “These drug dealers definitely know we’re here, and they’re lighting up the cell phones as we speak. Maybe they’ll be less dealing tonight because they know we’re out here.”

As news of the bust spread through the neighborhood, people began to cluster in the street. Officers continued with flashlights a search of the exterior of the home.

After the all-clear, McRae showed off the seizure — another 2.7 pounds of marijuana in gallon baggies, scales and other articles that typically indicate intent to distribute for sale.

But the suspect was not on scene. However, relatives with small children tagging behind them were there, and began questioning the officers.

Questions of what kind of search warrant, if any, they had were flying from one end of the street to the other.

Could they see the warrant?

They’ll call their lawyers.

To an officer, Choate quietly whispered his frustration, “The lesson for these kids tonight should be, ‘See this stuff. This is bad stuff. Stay away.’ Instead, these kids are scared and are learning from the adults here how to argue with police officers about a search warrant. That’s the part that’s just sad.”

As the early morning hours began to tick away, the SRT collected their tools and equipment, took photos and secured seizures of the marijuana, which was discovered in a car parked under the carport, and a loaded AR-15 assault rifle.

Arrests could happen soon, pending further investigation.

“Our plan definitely came together,” McRae said after the team returned to the WCSO after 2 a.m. “Both warrants were executed, and thankfully, no one was injured. We’re always extremely happy when we can take narcotics off the streets. It takes a lot of effort to do something like this, but the way I see it, anytime you can save the life of a young child, it’s worth the effort.”

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