Crime

Eleven traveling to Panama City area arrested in Phenix City

Eleven people headed to the Panama City Beach area were arrested Thursday during a Phenix City, Ala. checkpoint operation on US Highway 431, according to the Russell County Sheriff's Office.

The charges include one count of possession of cocaine, eight counts of possession of marijuana, two counts of carrying a concealed firearm, one possession of brass knuckles, two counts of fleeing and eluding and one count of reckless endangerment, according to Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen’s Facebook page.

According to the post, three suspects were arrested on outstanding warrants and two were tased after allegedly resisting the law.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said he spoke with McKeithen about conducting the checkpoint operation in an effort to prevent criminal activity on Panama City Beach. He said recent news stories concerning crime at the popular spring break vacation spot pushed him to take action.

"If we got one or two guns, which we did, that would be one or two less that his officers would have to deal with," Taylor said. "It may [have] prevented somebody from getting hurt."

The Alabama Highway Patrol, Russell County Emergency Management and the Metro Narcotics Task Force also assisted in the operation, which continues today on US Highway 431.

Taylor said the law allows for officials to perform a traffic stop and request the driver's license, proof of insurance and registration. When deputies obtain probable cause to take extra action, such as conduct a search, they can do so.

"I didn't know what to expect on the guns, but I did expect to make several cases of drugs and alcohol," he said. "What was a little bit strange was we didn't really make or come across any alcohol cases."

Taylor said he's received a lot of positive feedback from the public and Sheriff McKeithen about the checkpoint operation. He went on to say that many Russell County residents visit the Panama City Beach during spring break, and several expressed their appreciation for law enforcement's efforts. "I think everybody was upset about how dangerous it had gotten in the last two weeks, and so they were happy that I was trying to do something to make it safer it for the local families that want to go down to the beach," the Russell County sheriff said.

The arrests follow a March 28 Panama City Beach shooting on Thomas Drive that injured seven people, including students of Alabama A&M University visiting the beach for spring break, according to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Mobile, Ala. resident David Jamichael Daniels, 22, was arrested March 28 and charged with seven counts of attempted murder. He was then transported to the Bay County Jail.

The 11 people arrested during the checkpoint operation include:

Megan Branch, 22, of Piedmont, S.C. was charged with second-degree possession marijuana.

Johnny R. Aughtman, 51, of Phenix City, Ala. was charged with attempt to elude and reckless endangerment.

Thomas M. Hill, 29, of Eufuala, Ala. was charged with possession control substance, attempt to elude and carrying conceal weapon.

Jada Upshaw, 21, of Pittsview, Ala. was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana.

Kerwin K. Profett, 26, of Palmetto was charged with second-degree possession marijuana and carrying a conceal without a license.

Sandy J. Williams, 32, of Columbus was charged with failure to appear on speeding.

Kevin D Priester, 22, of Greensboro was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession drug paraphernalia.

Lavon W. Nichols, 24, of Norcross was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession drug paraphernalia.

Calton D. Hemingway, 23, of Norcross was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession drug paraphernalia.

Robert G. Genzman, 21, of Milton was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and possession drug paraphernalia.

Michael J. Crocker, 45, Decatur, Ala. was charged with first-degree possession of marijuana.

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