Spartanburg Co. drug operation questioned by some - FOX Carolina 21

Spartanburg Co. drug operation questioned by some

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A Kershaw County deputy pulls over Dirico. (Courtesy Spartanburg Co. Sheriff's Office) A Kershaw County deputy pulls over Dirico. (Courtesy Spartanburg Co. Sheriff's Office)

Operation Rolling Thunder brings deputies from across the state to Spartanburg County one time a year on a massive hunt for illegal guns, drugs and money.

During the last several years, the operations have netted millions of dollars, hundreds of pounds of drugs and many arrests, but the operation isn't popular with everyone, including one man who was pulled over during this year's installment of the operation in August.

The man's name is Chuck Dirico, and the Spartanburg Herald Journal published his comments in a guest column in their newspaper.

Dirico said deputies used excessive force during the stop and even came at him with machine guns. Dirico has since retracted some of his statements, but deputies didn't take that kind of criticism lightly.

They released the dash cam video of the stop to FOX Carolina, which shows deputies ask Dirico for his license and registration, then they asked him to step out the car.

"I couldn't help but notice you were following too closely," the deputy told Dirico during the stop.

From here, deputies talk with Dirico about where he is going and various other questions, including if they could search his car.

"You can, I am just frankly embarrassed at the mess," Dirico said during the stop.

Backup is seen arriving and Dirico's car is searched. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said eventually Dirico is let go with a warning, despite having a suspended license.

But this traffic stop prompted Dirico to write the Spartanburg Herald Journal, calling Spartanburg a "quasi-military state" and saying deputies with "machine guns" had treated him roughly while tearing apart his things.

Wright, who uses law enforcement officers from outside his jurisdiction during the operation, said the Kershaw County deputy who stopped Dirico acted professionally.

"I knew it was a lie because Mr. Dirico never tried and called to complain about that kind of treatment," Wright told FOX Carolina.

Dirico's criticisms in the newspaper story didn't stop there. He also called the dwindling drug finds of Operation Rolling Thunder "laughable."

Wright said the number of arrests are down, but that's because dealers are getting the message to stay out of Spartanburg County.

But out of everything Dirico said, Wright was most irritated because he believes Dirico insinuated deputies were at fault for a crash on the first day of Operation Rolling Thunder this summer, when 7-year-old Queniya Shelton lost her life after a police chase ended badly.

Wright said the little girl's mother was driving a car that his deputies tried to stop, and he said she wouldn't pull over.

"I lost a lot of sleep because a child is dead, and so did those officers, but I am going to reiterate they didn't do anything wrong," Wright said.

Since the release of the dash cam video, Dirico posted an apology on his Facebook page and retracted many of his statements.

And Wright said no matter what, Operation Rolling Thunder will be back next year.

"I am going to fight crime," Wright said. "I am going to fight crime. I am not going to listen to the people who want to legalize drugs, I have children out here and older people who don't agree with it and I am going to fight crime at every angle."

More than 200 officers patrolled county roads and highways making 24 arrests, getting 50 pounds of marijuana, several guns and more than $24,700 in cash off the streets during the Aug. 6 operation.

Wright said it was a very successful operation and thanked those involved for their time and hard work.

FOX Carolina tried to reach Dirico for comment several times but was unsuccessful.

On his Facebook page, Dirico apologized for lying about a handcuffing that never happened as part of plot he "conceived immediately as I pulled away from that stop."

Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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