Capt. Mike Fitzhugh (left) checks out warrants Oct. 11, 2012, before issuing the documents to teams of federal and local law enforcement officers for a roundup in Rutherford County. (Photo submitted).
While conducting a warrants roundup Wednesday morning, authorities discovered a fire inside a residence at Hanover Apartments and quickly turned their attention to saving lives, as well as catching suspects.
Officials said federal and local officers were in the midst of rounding up suspects when one agent spotted the fire just after 5:45 a.m.
Authorities began arresting suspects wanted on various warrants at about 4:30 a.m. As one team approached the apartment complex on Hanover Street, Sgt. Lee Young, with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, spotted smoke inside an apartment.
Colleagues Sgt. Jon Levi and Felony Arrest Search Team paramedic Chris Clark rushed inside the apartment, where they found a mattress on fire but no one inside. Other officers on the team awoke residents and moved them to safety without injuries.
The Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department extinguished the fire and contained the flames to one apartment.
If the team had not been there to serve warrants, Levi said he believes the fire could have spread to the neighboring apartments, and residents in up to eight units could have been injured or killed.
“I do believe the good Lord put us there at that time,” Levi said. “The reason was to find the fire.”
Capt. Mike Fitzhugh, who supervised the roundup, said teams consisting of authorities from the U.S. Marshals, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Murfreesboro and La Vergne police departments, as well as the Sheriff's Office and Emergency Medical Services paramedics, served 106 arrests on 76 suspects during the two-day roundup.
Twenty-two of those suspects were arrested on felony charges, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Three more suspects who heard about the roundup turned themselves in Friday morning.
The Sheriff’s Office has a backlog of 23,672 criminal warrants.
Patrol deputies and 11 deputies assigned to the Criminal and Civil Divisions attempt to serve the warrants daily. The number of warrants filed, coupled with suspects moving frequently and inaccurate addresses given on the arrest warrant, sometimes makes it difficult to locate suspects. Teams conduct the roundups once or twice a year.
Sheriff Robert Arnold thanked some 50 officers and their agencies before he joined them Thursday evening in the roundup.
“It’s a big asset we’re working together,” Arnold said. “The No. 1 thing is to be safe. We want all of you to go home to your family tonight.”
During Thursday night’s roundup, Fitzhugh said officers found felony amounts of illegal drugs in plain view inside homes that resulted in more charges. In one home, officers found two large marijuana plants and a large amount of exposed needles where a young child lived. Child endangerment charges were filed against those parents.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services was also notified about the case, and narcotics detectives have since launched an investigation.
One of the suspects located was on the top 10 list for the Sheriff’s Office. Another suspect was wanted on 10 separate charges.
Fitzhugh said when officers found a suspect didn’t live at a certain address, the Sheriff's Office Records Division employees tried to research the suspect and locate another address.
“Without the help of the other agencies, it is impossible for us to do this,” Fitzhugh said. “We’re going to continue until we get them served.”