Drone Used to Drop Drugs and Cell Phone in Prison – Arrests Made


IONIA, Mich. – Police arrested three suspects who are accused of using a drone to drop a cell phone and drugs into a prison.

The incident happened around 4 a.m. Thursday at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, reported mlive.com.

Corrections Officers Spotted Incoming Drone

Two corrections officers heard the sound of a drone in the prison yard and began to investigate. A short time later, the drone dropped a package near a housing unit before departing.

It wasn’t long before the drone returned and dropped another package to awaiting corrections officers who were gathered at the original drop site.

Investigative Stop Led to Arrests

Consequently, prison officials contacted police who stopped a vehicle near the prison. According to the report there were three suspects from the car arrested.

“Drones present a serious and constant threat to our prisons across the state,” Heidi Washington, director of the state Department of Corrections, said in a statement.

“I am proud of the prompt and professional response of our staff and for the support and coordination with local law enforcement and the Michigan State Police to apprehend these individuals. Together, their actions kept not only our facility, staff and prisoners safe, but the surrounding community as well.”

State police helped prison staff and members of its Emergency Response Team conduct a search of the prison grounds and areas around the facility.

New Trend

Prison officials indicated this was one of the few times in the country that an arrest of this nature has been made. But every new trend is repeated. So you can be sure these will not be the last suspects using a drone to smuggle contraband into a prison.

Washington said prison officials would continue to work with lawmakers to “strengthen laws regarding drones and their ability to introduce dangerous contraband into our prisons.”

Prisons spokesman Chris Gautz said drones have been used on two prior occasions to bring contraband into prisons. However, the drone operators were not located.

The three arrested in this case were relatively close to prison fences, he said.

It was uncertain if the drone operator was flying based on GPS coordinates, visually or by camera on the drone.

Further Investigation

Prison officials have not yet determined the intended recipient. But they are working to determine to identity this person, Gautz said.

Furthermore, while the trend is new, he said that staff are trained to look for drones.

“This is taken seriously. It’s a serious enough crime you could find yourself in (prison) someday. It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

As you can imagine, cell phones are highly sought items in prison.

Gautz said that state police are investigating to determine what drugs were dropped into the prison yard. Hence, the narcotics have been sent to a state police crime lab for identification.

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