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Keeping a level head in crisis

With last month’s high-profile arrest of alleged drug dealer Tiger Draggoo, our area became suddenly enlightened to a multilayer tragedy that had been playing out just under the surface in Belton for the past year.

In that case, one guy, just barely older than his teenage victims, is accused by federal authorities of being responsible for providing the fentanyl that snuffed out the lives of three Belton teens, two of which were still in high school. These tragedies don’t receive the open and public acknowledgment of, say, traffic accidents, the major killer of my peers as a teen. That’s not to say the truth isn’t known widely among the victims’ peers and their parents. But due to many factors, we don’t go through that period of open community assessment and direct discussions of how to mitigate the dangers that we might have had the victims’ names and photos been publicized widely as they are of those who might have died because of a poorly marked rural railroad crossing.


Throw in the specter of potential criminal liability, and you automatically muzzle law enforcement to a large degree in regard to these cases. Oh, they can and do speak volumes regarding the overall danger our community faces, but without being able to tie their discussions to specific cases, those points often go unheeded by a large percentage of our community.


While that unaffected and oblivious percentage is falling, as more and more families find themselves affected by the fentanyl crisis - I’m not immune and it’s becoming harder to find those that are. But that also makes us far more susceptible to misinformation and angry, desperate demands for solutions that don’t exist.


This week, more than 200 Belton and area recipients – corporate and business leaders, school officials, law enforcement and court officers, and those from many other walks of life – received an email containing a volume of misguided emotion laying the blame for last year’s fentanyl deaths at the feet of local law enforcement, claiming authorities had been given all the information needed nip this threat before it ever fully materialized, especially if they had been willing to exercise just a little bit of extra-judicial activity.


We won’t get into some of the more absurd claims given by the writer as to the tools various agencies supposedly have at their disposal (think dedicated satellite spy capability and the ability to see through walls), but focus instead on why, in the real world, it is so very difficult to shut off a source the at level that Tiger Draggoo had reached.


And why it took so many local agencies – the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Belton Police, Raymore Police, the Jackson County Drug Task Force – in addition to federal resources to pin this down after nearly a year of intense investigation.


Readers of this email, if they didn’t know any better, would think laziness somehow kept this dealer on the streets, leaving a trail of death behind every sale he made.


They might be tempted to compare this to the Kylr Yust case, where Kara Kopetsky was missing for more than a decade before her body was found and a killer faced justice. Because that’s the obscene comparison the email writer made.


And he made that comparison while posing as an “insider,” with specialized knowledge of how investigations are and should be conducted.


Finally, he wrote it with an emotional tone – the words of one who is truly frightened for the future of our teens in this world of threats we know comparatively little about.


On that, I’ll grant him credit. I believe he does share our worries genuinely.


I guess I’ll have to also credit him with some “insider” knowledge, if only from his experience of contact with law enforcement.


Those that received the email need to realize the writer has a felony drug rap sheet going back 20 years at least.


He’s been in the system for much of that time, facing and being found guilty of various felony drug charges over the years, but fortunately, for him, serving most if his time on probation, rather than behind bars.


Right now, in fact, he remains on felony probation for felony stalking and possession of controlled substance convictions in 2020.


I’d venture to say that much of his success at staying out of prison is due to a combination of good-hearted local judges that saw some potential in him, and the Constitutional protections he is claiming that law enforcement should disregard in this case.


I don’t think this guy means harm by trying to stir up passion in our community to attack this threat to our teens.


But this is the first time I can recall seeing a missive sent to so many, claiming such damaging material against so many that we are counting on to represent us in this fight.


Look, if we find problems, we should and will go after them. We know well the failures of the Belton Police Department. its former chief and some others on his staff in the Kopetsky case, and the stain that’ll never heal from that episode in our history. Others played heroic roles throughout that nightmares, and many of those are still on the force.


But over the next few weeks, know you will be hearing more about this case. It's a huge story and a deeply tragic one. So far, I’m seeing nothing that could possibly be called a failure.


Sadly, it just takes time and very precise investigative work.

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