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Hockessin Community News
  • Middletown S.W.A.T team plays role in “Operation Thunder Clap”

  • The Middletown team has been together for about a year now, but this was the first time the department activated them for something of this magnitude, said Chief Henry Tobin. They have executed search warrants, but nothing like this before.
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  • It was the Middletown Police Department S.W.A.T. team's biggest task yet.
    They were asked by Delaware State Police to participate in Operation Thunder Clap, a three month long investigation into the drug related activities of the Thunderguards Motorcycle Club.
    The Middletown team has been together for about a year now, but this was the first time the department activated them for something of this magnitude, said Chief Henry Tobin. They have executed search warrants, but nothing like this before.
    On Nov. 5, the 10 members of the S.W.A.T. team executed a search warrant at a residence in the 500 block of New Street where they arrested Armar C. Womack, 55, and Marquita S. Charlton, 29.
    Inside of the New Street residence, police found 178 grams of cocaine, 46 grams of marijuana, digital scales, $2,000 cash, and several pieces of Thunderguard clothing, said Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack.
    At around the same time that night, nine other warrants were executed in New Castle County, resulting in the arrests of six other people who are members of affiliates of the motorcycle club, police said.
    It was an undercover investigation that led to information on a cocaine distribution network operated by the Thunderguards, Shavack said.
    An eleventh warrant was executed in Elkton, Md.
    In all, "Operation Thunder Clap" netted more than 2,300 grams of cocaine, 167 grams of marijuana, more than $40,000 in cash, guns, and other paraphernalia, State Police said.
    Forming its S.W.A.T. team
    The town of Middletown had had its own police department for about five years now.
    A little over a year ago, Tobin said that they met and decided that they needed to be proactive and create a team with a higher frequency of weapons.
    The 10 officers on the S.W.A.T. team participate in monthly training and do their extra assignment voluntarily.
    Lt. Michael Kelly serves as the team's commander.
    "The officers have to meet certain physical requirements and pass oral board," Tobin said.
    There have been major hometown incidents in "hometown U.S.A.," he said. Between those national incidents and workplace violence, the department decided to take a proactive approach.
    "We met, discussed, and felt with new and larger businesses coming to town, that we should put something in place as a safeguard," Tobin said.
    In July 2011, officers who volunteered to be on the S.W.A.T. team took their 40-hour basic course and completed training with the New Castle County Police Department.
    Their first big assignment came that fall when they raided a home on South Cox Street.
    Page 2 of 2 - There had been reported drug activity and some people were frequenting the house that were known to have a history of drug and weapon charges, Tobin said. The warrant was executed successfully and nobody was injured.
    How S.W.A.T. stands out
    Grants fund a majority of the team's equipment.
    To date, Middletown's S.W.A.T. team has not cost the town anything, Tobin said.
    Officers have to be extra physically fit to be a member and have to commit to being on-call in case something happens, he said.
    Police officers on the S.W.A.T. team wear upgraded ballistic vests and helmets, use advanced communication systems, and carry 9-millimeter guns and long rifles.
    They're equipment is similar to other law enforcement agencies across the state.
    "They also take additional advanced training on tactical operations and movement," said Officer E.J. Murray.
    Middletown also collaborates and trains with other departments, that way different agencies can work together if the incident is too big for just one team.
    The Delaware State Police wrote the warrant for Nov. 5, Tobin said.
    At 7 p.m., it was executed.
    "Timing was part of the investigation," Tobin said.
    Both Womack and Charlton were taken into custody and charged that night.

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