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Photos: 19 busts in Colorado Springs heroin investigation, high schoolers alleged targets?

The Colorado Springs Police Department, working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, has made a big heroin bust. Nineteen people were arrested, including one juvenile and eight under the age of 21 -- many of them alleged users rather than dealers. Their youth makes sense, given that high schoolers were thought to be among potential customers. According to the CSPD, vice, narcotics and intelligence unit officers launched their investigation in May 2011, making a number of undercover buys over time.

Before long, they had company. This past March, agents from the DEA and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force began an independent investigation into a regional heroin organization that is said to have led them to the very parties in the cross hairs of the CSPD. Meanwhile, the Springs officers were hearing rumors that a ring was responsible for distributing heroin to local high school students.

The topic is a hot one nationally. Just last night, NBC News featured a lengthy report about what was described as rising heroin use among suburban teens.

On June 5, five people were arrested and accused of dealing. The following day, the assorted investigators conducted what's referred to as a "reversal operation" aimed in part at users, with one juvenile and eight adults, many of them young, fitted with cuffs.

There was an added bonus. In the midst of these actions, what investigators believe was a rival group of dealers "engaged an undercover officer in a threatening manner" -- i.e., they apparently tried to rip him off. That quartet -- Francisco Uribe-Contreras, 46, Jose Manuel Brambila, 33, Krista Rose Eileen Gustafson, eighteen, and Brian Brett Cogan, twenty -- have been charged with robbery and attempted conspiracy, according to a DEA agent serving as a spokesman.

As for the rest, the aforementioned agent identifies them as either alleged users or dealers. They are:

Taylor Paul Fuller, eighteen (user); Michael Reed Kemp (user), Donovan Sisneros Jr.(dealer) and Gabriel Adam McKinsey, nineteen (users); Crystal Nicole Sparks, twenty (user); Rachel Leah Dickman, 21 (user); Melodie Rose Bishel, 22 (user); Terry James Smith (user) and Gabriel Medina Jr. (dealer), 23; Clayton Roy Martin, 24 (user); Josue Leyva-Rojo, 28 (dealer); Seth Michael Berger, thirty (user); Jorge Alberto Rodriguez-Lopez, 33 (dealer); and Ismael Jacobo-Esquirel, 39 (dealer).

As you know, many advocates for the reform of narcotics laws, including Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance, feel heroin abuse and the like are more effectively dealt with from a health-care perspective that focuses on prevention and treatment, as opposed to the criminal court system. But the latter is where a number of people who may have been addicted to heroin or were simply dabbling in it appear to be headed.

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The final law-enforcement haul, aside from the nineteen individuals, included two pounds of heroin, three ounces of cocaine, three handguns, two vehicles and $14,500 in cash.

Look below to see mug shots for fifteen of the eighteen arrestees, as well as more photos of the booty courtesy of the DEA.

Page down to see more mug shots of heroin operation arrestees, as well as additional DEA photos. Page down to see more mug shots of heroin operation arrestees, as well as additional DEA photos. Page down to see more mug shots of heroin operation arrestees, as well as additional DEA photos. Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Danielle Blankenship: Charge for killing cat by blowing heroin smoke in its face dropped."

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