September 18, 2006
Two Richmond County men are behind bars, accused of trying to sell drugs to undercover investigators.
It's a transaction that led to gunfire at the Grovetown Food Lion Friday afternoon.
Undercover officers say this isn't the first time suspected drug dealers from other areas have tried to deal in Columbia County. Investigators say it's common for drug deals to happen across county lines.
But tracking them can take months and can lead to dangerous situations.
An undercover drug sting tracked $3000 worth of cocaine almost 30 miles, from south Augusta to the Grovetown Food Lion.
Narcotics Lt. Butch Askew says catching dealers means going undercover.
"Informants provide us with information and give us the basis we need to start an investigation," he told News 12.
And the investigation can take months.
"Go and set up a purchase, set up a drug deal, and a transaction to meet someone."
At the end of this transaction, reports show the suspects, 19-year-old Michael Garrett and 22-year-old Anderson Levon Kyler, tried to drive away from officers.
Undercover Sgt. Tripp Penn, who we interviewed several months ago, says Garrett then tried to run him over, so Sgt. Penn fired his weapon at the white Chevrolet Impala.
Officers say the drug deal brought more than 25 grams of cocaine into Columbia County.
"Drug dealers come across and make transactions...it's the location we're in," Lt. Askew said.
Investigators track deals from Aiken, McDuffie, and Richmond counties into Columbia County. They've made more than 160 arrests in a year's time.
"There's always that one chance where the suspect, as in this case, makes poor decision which forces instances like Friday to occur," Lt. Askew said.
Lt. Askew says one of the only ways to catch the dealer is to do business with the dealer, and face danger to keep drugs off the streets.
One of the shots from Sgt. Penn's weapon hit Garrett in the neck. He was later released from MCG and is now in the Columbia County Detention Center with Anderson Levon Kyler. Sgt. Penn is currently on administrative leave while the sheriff's office investigates the shooting.
Usually in an undercover sting, the suspect decides where the deal should happen, and the undercover officers go along with it. That's what happened on Friday.
Of course, the Food Lion is a very public place. The investigators are undercover, and in most cases, they will go wherever the suspects want to make the sale to avoid suspicion.
Garrett and Kyler are set to make their first appearance in front of a magistrate judge this evening.