Cooperation between Evanston, Skokie, Chicago leads to drug bust

Marshall Cohen

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Last week’s drug bust, in which Evanston officers uncovered 443 grams of marijuana, was the result of inter-jurisdictional cooperation between police departments from Evanston, Skokie and Chicago.

Cmdr. Tom Guenther, Evanston Police Department spokesperson, said Monday the cooperation is a significant element of running an effective police force.

“We work closely with Chicago and suburb police departments and also with Cook County, too,” Guenther said. “Whenever the situation dictates that we work closely with them on any given operation or they need our assistance, we are happy to provide that assistance and they feel the same way.”

Sgt. David Pawlak, administrative services supervisor with the Skokie Police Department, said Skokie shares critical resources with Evanston when needed.

“It’s very important that we work together,” Pawlak said. “Unfortunately, each individual agency doesn’t have their own resources, so we have to share so the cooperation is necessary.”

Last week’s drug bust was a “direct outgrowth” of an ongoing narcotics investigation in Evanston, according to an EPD news release issued Thursday.

Guenther declined to comment on exactly how long the investigation had been ongoing or how many officers were involved.

After obtaining a search warrant, officers from EPD raided an apartment just across the Evanston-Chicago border last week. They were joined by the Canine Unit from the Skokie Police Department when they arrived 1:09 p.m. Oct. 24 at 7464 N. Damen Ave. in Chicago.

Evanston has had a canine unit in the past, Guenther said, but it is currently “inoperable.”

Cmdr. Brian Baker, the canine coordinator with the Skokie Police Department, said his department often works closely with EPD and other local police units.

“We routinely help other departments when they ask for assistance, and it’s a matter of normal practice,” Baker said. “We do the same thing, too. While our canine works usually 16 or 17 days a month, if something occurs and he’s not here then we will reach out to another town for help.”

Officers first set up an external perimeter around the apartment and announced their presence, according to the news release.

After receiving no response, the officers forced entry “on the door,” Guenther said.

The apartment was unoccupied, and one canine from the Skokie Police Department assisted in searching the apartment. The search resulted in the discovery of 443.3 grams – nearly half a kilogram – of a green leafy substance that field-tested positive as marijuana. They also found a scale and $955, according to the news release.

Officers monitoring the outside perimeter encountered the suspect, identified as 32-year-old Darius Darnell Johnson, and detained him in the rear alley as he tried to escape.

Police took Johnson into custody without further incident. He was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis and a single misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

The amount of marijuana found in Johnson’s apartment – 443 grams, which is under one pound – is considered a Class 3 felony in Illinois, said Gal Pissetzky, a Chicago-based criminal defense attorney.

Pissetzky has specialized in drug crimes for 11 years and routinely deals with cases involving kilograms of cocaine and hundreds of pounds of marijuana.

“Anywhere between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana is Class 3,” Pissetzky said. “Once you reach 500 grams, it becomes a Class 2 felony and the penalties increase.”

Johnson could face a sentence of anywhere from two to five years in prison, Pissetzky said, but the sentencing strongly depends on the particulars of the trial.

“It depends on the facts of the case and it depends heavily on the person’s background as well as any plea agreements with the state,” Pissetzky said.

If Johnson has a relatively clean record, he may be deemed probation-eligible and would be sentenced to only probation and no jail time. However, if he has prior drug convictions or is currently on probation, Johnson could be deemed eligible for an extended term in prison.

“In that case, he could be looking at five to 10 years,” Pissetzky said.

Johnson is due to appear in court at 9 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Cook County 2nd District Circuit Court, 5600 Old Orchard Road, in Skokie.