After several complaints from residents in the Bohannon Street area and two months worth of undercover work, investigators from the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) shut down an alleged shot house on Friday.
Alcohol is sold illegally by the drink in a shot house. A shot may cost 50 cents and a cup of beer $2, according to Lt. Phillip Bradford with the SIU. A shot house is open on Sunday but typically not advertised.
“These are difficult cases to work,” Bradford said. “Whereas, when you work a drug case people will come from all over to that location to buy, so it’s easy to get people to cooperate or even be an informant. But when you have a tight-knit community it’s hard to get in there and work a case.”
It took undercover investigators two months before they were able to get into the home and make several purchases of alcohol from 45-year-old Anthony “A.B.” Jerome Brown, who rents the home from Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, who is not related. Investigators arrived at the home about 10:45 a.m. Friday and Brown was standing in the front yard. He spoke with investigators and walked back into the home with them. In the kitchen, according to Bradford, there were several bottles of liquor and some beer, which was seized.
“He was 100 percent cooperative,” said Bradford. “He understood why we were there.”
Bradford said that shot houses can be a breeding ground for other crimes, such as fighting and assaults with knives and guns.
“This did not happen in this case, but who knows,” said Bradford. “In time that’s what comes around these types of houses.”
He said that Sheriff Brown’s ownership of the property had no bearing in the investigation or the arrest.
“As a property owner you have rights but as a renter you also have rights,” explained Bradford. “When you rent a house, that’s as good as your house. The Sheriff spoke with us and he said he had talked with A.B., who denied that anything was going on… He said that we should do whatever we need to do. The sheriff in no way tried to stop or hinder or halt any part of the investigation at all. He was 100 percent by the book. There had to be proof of what people were saying and the sheriff did not have that until we made this arrest… Even as the sheriff owning rental properties, renters have rights; even the sheriff cannot violate those rights.”
Sheriff Brown said that he had contacted A.B. Brown and even stopped by the home unannounced on occasions but was unable to do anything because the accusations were unsubstantiated. He also expressed his gratitude to Bradford and the SIU for their hard work and to the residents for voicing their concerns.
“I continue to encourage those residents, as well as residents in all other communities, to be on the look-out for any illegal activity of any sort. I, along with others, own houses in various communities and have no knowledge of activities going on in those units unless we are told… I condone no wrong-doing by Anthony or anyone else,” said Brown. “No man is above the law and I certainly hope that community can begin to thrive as I know they are trying to do.”
Bradford acknowledged that it had taken time to make the case against the shot house and to make the arrest, but said that they had to take time to make sure everything was done by the book.
“A lot of times we just have to be patient and let the system work,” said Bradford. “It’s a slow process sometimes but in the end the truth always comes out and that’s what the system is all about – the truth.”