By MARY RAINWATER
Two suspects still remain at-large following a recent multi-agency drug trafficking operation in Palestine and Anderson County on Jan. 15, during which 18 of 22 suspects were arrested or reported to be already in custody.
At the time of the operation, four suspects remained at-large, with two of those — Bruce James Hogue, 49 and Jennifer Nacole Finley, 29 — arrested since that time. Still being sought by authorities are Raul Hernandez Gomez, 39, a Hispanic male and Brittney Estridge Hawthorne, 25, a white female.
“Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to contact Anderson County Crime Stoppers at 903-729-8477,” Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said. “There are cash rewards issued for legitimate tips.”
During a press conference on Jan. 15, Taylor reported that their 20-month drug trafficking operation began in May of 2012, when his office began working drug information on some individuals in the county.
“We made several traffic stops, started to build up intel and quickly discovered that it was bigger than we could do alone,” Taylor said. “So we enlisted the help of the Department of Public Safety and the ATF.
“There was some gun running and some narcotics being dealt that we needed some assistance with,” the sheriff added. “We also were dealing with some Mexican nationals, and so we knew we needed a little bit of help.”
This need prompted a collaborative effort between local, state and federal agencies, whose undercover agents and investigators were able to purchase narcotics and firearms from the individuals indicted.
“We believe that this group is responsible for a major amount of narcotic trafficking as well as gun trafficking here in our county and in the surrounding area,” the sheriff said.
Sealed indictments against 22 key members in the alleged drug trafficking organization were obtained by the office of District Attorney Doug Lowe on Jan. 2 from an Anderson County Grand Jury.
At approximately 6 a.m. Jan. 15, the ACSO and the Palestine Police Department, along with DPS SWAT, SRT-1 and Texas Highway Patrol Troopers served warrants at locations within the city limits of Palestine — on South Street, on Hayes Street and “in other areas of the city,” Taylor reported.
Thirteen suspects were arrested in that final arrest effort, some of those being “casualties,” or subjects who were with the persons sought that had outstanding warrants.