Minneapolis Park Police made an “extraordinary” seizure of fentanyl pills two days before Christmas stemming from a traffic stop near downtown Minneapolis’ Elliot Park.
According to details in a press release and a corresponding press conference held on Thursday by Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto, throughout 2023 Elliot Park has been a “focus zone” for patrols due to violent crime.
Chief Ohotto said that the park has seen a significant increase in violent crimes since the summer of 2022 and that there have been 13 serious violent crimes in 2023, all of which have been aggravated assaults and robberies.
Ohotto attributed the violent activity to drug sales, use, and addiction. He said they’ve recovered more fentanyl this year than ever before. Ohotto said he believes fentanyl is “fueling a great deal of violence and livability issues across our city.”
On Dec. 23, at 7:48 p.m., Park Police officers were patrolling the area of Elliot Park when they attempted to stop a vehicle in connection with a federal arrest warrant. All four of the vehicle’s occupants fled on foot from the vehicle. Park officers pursued and captured one of the suspects, Bernard Augusta Mack. During the arrest of Mack, officers recovered 1,788 pills which tested positive for fentanyl.
Mack, 28, of St. Paul is facing a felony charge of first-degree aggravated controlled substance.
Charges say a second quantity of fentanyl pills was recovered from the vehicle driven by Mack. Two cellphones were found near the driver’s seat area, as well as a box of plastic sandwich baggies. One of the seized cellphones displayed multiple cash transactions occurring prior to the traffic stop, between Dec. 21, 2023, and the hours preceding the traffic stop on Dec. 23, 2023.
In the trunk of the vehicle, officers recovered a black .45 caliber extended handgun magazine, with multiple rounds. Forensic tests are pending and may lead to additional charges.
Ohotto noted that Mack is on probation from a 2020 conviction for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.
A check of court records shows that Mack’s five-year prison sentence on the gun crime conviction was stayed in a downward departure from sentencing guidelines by former Hennepin County Judge Martha Holton Dimick, who was defeated in her bid for Hennepin County Attorney in 2022 by Mary Moriarty.
Mack made his first court appearance on the new drug charge on Thursday, as well as a probation violation hearing on the prior gun conviction. Mack is being held without bail on the probation violation. He is scheduled for hearings in both cases on Feb. 12, 2024.
Ohotto said during last week’s press conference that Elliot Park and its soccer field are popular with nearby college students, and that the park is very busy, and the soccer field is always scheduled throughout all three seasons that it’s operational.
Ohotto said that in addition to Elliot Park, other current “focus zone” parks include Loring Park, Currie Park in Cedar-Riverside, and East Phillips Park.
“I’m a grateful for the outstanding and proactive work by our Park Police officers and investigators. This quantity of fentanyl is extraordinary for a street-level drug arrest and could have harmed or killed countless people,” Chief Ohotto said.
Ohotto said that the other three suspects who fled from the vehicle are still being sought, and the investigation remains open.
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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.