High Risk Warrant
DEA Senior Agent Frank Donovan’s POV
Director Grimes had been riding my ass all morning long, and I was itching to do something. The abduction of Harleigh Ryder had stirred up a hornet’s nest, and the result was the full briefing room at the Ocala Police Department precinct house. “Good morning everyone, I’m DEA Senior Agent Frank Donovan, leader of the Tezcatlipoca Interagency Task Force that just hit its two-hour anniversary.” Nervous laughter echoed through the room. Most of the people here didn’t know what we were dealing with. The phone calls had come early and often to get people here.
I started my Powerpoint show with a picture of the Sons leadership in their cuts. “For those of you joining us late, here is the deal. The Sons of Tezcatlipoca, a violent outlaw biker gang with chapters in the Southwest, showed up in Florida this past week. Four of them showed up at the home of Sean Ryder, a retired DEA agent who two decades ago worked deep undercover against biker gangs in California. They tortured him and his wife, a former Federal Prosecutor, and current County Attorney.” I put up a photo of the two. “These animals raped his wife in front of him before killing her, then executed him.” I cut to a crime scene photo. “Their daughter came home at the end of the attack. She was shot but managed to drive her Harley away and escape to the clubhouse of the Steel Brotherhood.”
“So, we’re in the middle of a biker gang war?”
I put up a photo of Harleigh in her Steel Ladies cut. “No. The Steel Brotherhood hasn’t broken any laws and they are not our target. They were able to get her inside the gates and killed three of the four men who chased her there.” There was a murmuring in the room, they suddenly didn’t mind the Brotherhood so much. “The man who survived was injured and has been identified by DNA testing as Jose Correira, son of one of the top Sons leaders, Jesus." I put a photo up of Harleigh in the hospital room. "She survived the shot to the back but early this morning was kidnapped from her hospital room in Orlando. A police officer guarding the room was poisoned and nearly died.” Now I really had their attention.
“The Sons sent twenty men to Florida after their three men were killed, and they have been holed up on a property in Ocala for a day now. The property is owned by a shell corporation and is suspected to be a Cartel safe house. Since this group hasn’t done anything illegal yet, we haven’t been able to do anything. For the intelligence update on the property, Sheriff Lance Justice of Marion County.”
The Sheriff stood up and put up a satellite view of the ten-acre property just a few miles outside Ocala. “We have been monitoring the situation with the Sons of Tezcatlipoca since we were notified that they were headed for Orlando,” he said. “My men took license plate numbers and ran the registrations of the riders. None have outstanding warrants, but none are boy scouts either. We can’t get them on parole violations. We didn’t have any evidence that would allow us to search them or their motorcycles, and the home is clean. Based on the request from Orlando Police, we have maintained surveillance on the entrance to the property since they arrived.” He pointed out the sprawling home, with a large pole barn and detached garage. “We sent a drone over after dark last night with infrared, and it shows nothing suspicious, just the men we know are there. The utility bills do not indicate the property is being used as a grow house. The motorcycles were seen in the open door of the pole barn during the flyover.”
“Have they been riding in and out of there, or have other vehicles shown up?”
“Not until this morning. Our stakeout is near where the driveway meets the road, and it’s been quiet. The infrared showed the engines of the motorcycles to be cold.” He showed a photo of a panel van turning into the lot. “This van was rented yesterday in Orlando. The woman who rented it has no warrants or record. It showed up just before sunrise, drove into the garage, and hasn’t come back out. The infrared camera showed two people in the back, one lying down the other sitting.” He looked at everyone. “It’s circumstantial, but with the history and the information the DEA has provided on the losses of former agents and the gang’s practices, we were able to obtain a search warrant for the property. We also have an active Federal warrant for one Jose Correira. We may or may not find Harleigh in there, as we did not get notified of the abduction in time to stop the van.” He put Jose’s photo back up. “If she is found, we arrest them all. If not, we arrest Jose if he is there.” I looked out over the room, people were ready to go. “With that, I turn it over to FBI Hostage Rescue Team and Senior Agent-in-Charge Tim Needles.”
The HRT leader was a real snake-eater; former Delta Force commando who left to join the FBI and now was in charge of one of their elite groups. They specialized in high-risk warrants and hostage situations, and each man on the team was highly trained. He put up a layout of the home, pulled from County building records. On it was superimposed the heat signatures from the night before. “The home is big and there are a lot of men to control, so we’re going in heavy on this op. My team will infiltrate the property from the north, taking station behind these bushes. Our objective will be the bedrooms in this wing, where the hostage is likely to be kept. We will enter from the patio and these windows, using flash-bangs to disorient the occupants. We will secure to this hallway,” he said. “Marion County SWAT, followed by the DEA agents, will take position behind the garage and the pole barn and breach the property at the front door, living room window, garage door, and kitchen door. All officers need gas masks as we will be using flash-bangs followed by tear gas canisters to expedite the takedowns. Nothing fancy. The first in taking down the first bad guys they encounter, those behind them keep moving forward until the home is secure. Cuff them and hold them down, then when all clear is called, lead them outside.”
It was as simple a plan as you could get for taking down almost two dozen members of a violent biker gang. The forty-some officers in the room might be enough. “Rules of engagement are normal, force is authorized to protect yourself, a fellow officer or the hostage. We load up in twenty minutes, drivers meet me after the meeting to go over routes. Time on target is 0900, HRT will give the go signal. Radio channel five.”
The Sheriff spoke up next. “The mobile command center will be set up in the staging area, the old E-Z Mart parking lot. We need to be in the game on this, we’ve got a ton of officers and a potential hostage, so I don’t want friendly fire taking anyone out. Be sure of your target and what is behind it,” he said. “Let’s get these fuckers.”
I drove in one of the three Suburbans that had been brought up from Miami, going over the plan with the team as we drove. The DEA guys had lots of experience with no-knock warrants and high-risk apprehensions, but we didn’t do a lot of hostage situations. “We need to be ready for anything,” I told them. “Hostage Rescue thinks she will be in a back bedroom, but we can’t be sure. Given what these guys do, we’re just as likely to find her tied for a gang-rape in the living room or beaten half to death in the garage. I want these guys bad; they did not only go after one of our own, but they also targeted his FAMILY. We need to get Harleigh Ryder back,” I said.
“What was her father thinking when he named her,” my driver said when the moment passed.
“He was probably thinking she would never be able to buy a rice burner,” I said with a grin. “It was a way to protect her from the crotch rockets.”
“A father has to do whatever he can,” the agent in the back seat agreed. “I think it’s a great name. ’Murica! Hell yeah!”
“Well, her club name is Crash,” I said. “I’m told it was based on her softball play, but now I’m not so sure it isn’t because she crashed into the clubhouse. She managed to outrun four bikers while bleeding from her liver after knowing her parents were dead. She’s the kind of person we NEED to save.”
They dropped me at the command post, then drove on to their staging area on an adjoining property. The Sheriff had quietly gone to the neighbors and evacuated them, and he had drone video up on the large television in the command post. “That your asset or mine,” I asked.
“Neither, the FBI brought it in,” Agent Needles said. “It’s got four hours of time on station and flies high enough to be silent and invisible. The camera is good, but infrared doesn’t work for shit with the sun being up this high,” he said. The camera was showing a wide view of the buildings and the surrounding property. I could see the teams starting to move through the trees towards their initial points. The movement was planned carefully to use the garage or pole barn, or the thick pines, to hide their approach.
“All the motorcycles still there?”
“We didn’t get a count, but we can see some of them through the open pole barn door. It looks the same as the photos we took last night.”
It was going well as the teams reached their positions; I knocked on the wooden desk, hoping Mr. Murphy would stay away for this one. The team leaders checked in with the FBI, and I could see them all doing final weapons tests. “Thirty seconds, don gas masks,” the FBI team leader ordered. “Hostage Rescue on my count, remaining teams on their delay.” We had calculated the distance the teams would have to run from their initial points to the entry points. The Hostage Rescue guys were going first because they had the longest run, and they needed to be the first to breach. Even a few seconds of warning might be enough for them to kill the hostage before they could get inside.”
I watched as the teams got into their assault formations, single file, their left hand on the left shoulder of the guy in front of them, rifles at the ready.
“Five, four, three, two, one, GO GO GO.”
Seven teams started moving, three to the back of the house were Hostage Rescue, the four in front County SWAT and DEA. The Hostage Rescue guys reached first, and I saw them slap the plastic explosive on before moving aside. “Two One BREACH,” came over the radio, then multiple explosions as the doors were blown open. Flashbangs, grenades that used loud explosions and light flashes to disorient and confuse the people inside, went off in multiple locations. The teams poured inside, tossing tear gas to make sure the defenders couldn’t put up a defense.
“Team two CLEAR.”
“Team one CLEAR.”
“Team three CLEAR.” The Hostage Rescue guys had secured their rooms.
“Team five clear, no contacts.”
“Team six clear. Sheriff, there’s nobody here.” A couple of minutes later, after a full search by all the teams of the home and buildings, it was clear they had bailed out. There was no evidence of illegal activity, or of Harleigh.
“What biker gang leaves their motorcycles behind,” the Sheriff asked.
No.It couldn’t be. “Get ahold of Orlando Police, let them know the Sons may be heading their way.” I walked outside and away from the Command Post before I opened my phone and dialed Director Grimes. “Sir, the raid failed. They had to have been tipped off, they were there last night and gone by the time we got the warrant.”
“Son of a BITCH,” he said. “They didn’t just leave?”
“No, sir. They left motorcycles behind and didn’t leave via the driveway. They must have gone through the woods and been picked up elsewhere. Local law enforcement couldn’t properly maintain surveillance on this property, and until Harleigh was taken, no one was planning to raid this.”
He didn’t say anything for a bit. "Make sure the Sheriff alerts highway patrol and head back to Orlando. They might be heading home, or they might be in the woods,” he said. “If they’ve got Harleigh, she’ll be dead by sundown if we can’t find them. Make sure to cover the Steel Brotherhood clubhouse.”
“Because the bastards might dump her body there to make a point.”