By Ed Brock
They dragged some of them out of bed into the chilly early morning air, giving them just enough time to put on a bathrobe.
Others they caught preparing to leave for work, and still other Clayton County fugitives just weren't home when the U.S. Marshal Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force came knocking on their doors in the pre-dawn gloom.
"They've been more surprised than anything else," Clayton County Sheriff's Maj. Doug Massengale said around 4:45 a.m., an hour and 15 minutes into the sweep.
Marshals and officers from several other municipal law enforcement agencies joined Massengale and his fellow deputies for the operation that led to the capture of eight of Clayton County's most wanted. The worked in teams of 10, two teams for Clayton County and another two teams in Fulton County to grab Clayton County fugitives believed to be living there.
Among the captured was 20-year-old Jonah Holley Jr., wanted on a charge of capital murder out of Plano, Texas.
Holley was not the shooter in the murder, Plano police Detective Scott Epperson said, but he drove the get away car.
"He was the weak link in the group (involved in the crime)," Epperson told the agents before they moved on the Mockingbird Trail home near Riverdale where Holley was staying.
Once at the house the squad members moved in quickly, surrounding the still darkened home, standing just outside a backyard fence that held back a sharply barking dog.
They knocked on the door, a light came on upstairs and after a minute a woman answered the door to the agents. Moments later Holley was brought out in handcuffs, dressed in his work clothes, drearily refusing to answer questions about his involvement in the crime.
"This was a good arrest," Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle said. "A murder suspect out of Texas right here in our community."
Operations like Thursday's sweep are common, Tuggle said, and they provide useful information even if the targeted fugitive is not found.
"It's like shaking the bushes. When you shake the bushes you never know what's going to happen," Tuggle said.
The task force was out to serve 46 arrest warrants, Massengale said, and though they only arrested eight people Thursday he expects several more to turn themselves in as a result of the operation.
Manpower is always an issue, Tuggle said, so participating in a group like the Marshal's fugitive task force is a way to add temporary personnel to a search.
By providing one deputy for the task force the department gains access to all the members of the task force, Massengale said. The sheriff's office also participated in the now defunct Metro Atlanta Fugitive Task Force that was overseen by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. It was eliminated due to budget cuts, Massengale said.
"Everybody hated to see it go," Massengale said.
Other fugitives on the search list for Thursday's sweep were wanted for a variety of crimes, from aggravated assault to burglary. The reason for the early-morning timing of the sweep was to catch the fugitives off guard, if they were to be caught at all, and thus reduce the chance that they would run or resist arrest.
"Surprise is always your best friend," Massengale said. "We work while they rest. It's just the best thing to do."