The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 5, 2013

Jaws of Life device used to force safe open

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

ST PETER — Agents with the area drug task force have their own method for cracking a safe, with a little help from firefighters, when they suspect drugs are inside.

The method was used last week after agents with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force raided a Minnesota Avenue apartment in St. Peter rented by 36-year-old Chellevear Antoine Hodges. Officers from the St. Peter Police Department and the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force arrived at the apartment at about 11:20 a.m. on March 26, according to a criminal complaint.

A St. Peter officer told drug task force agents he had developed a rapport with Hodges, so he went along to knock on the door and ask him to come out. When Hodges repeatedly questioned the identity of the officer, agents moved forward, announced they had a search warrant and forced their way in quickly with a sledge hammer, the complaint said.

Investigators found a handgun in a closet and a 13-year-old girl in a room at the apartment. A small amount of marijuana also was found. Hodges told agents he had been caring for the girl, who is not biologically related to him, since she was 3 years old.

Hodges refused to talk to anyone except the St. Peter police officer, so the two of them went into a bathroom to talk, the complaint said. At that point Hodges, who is a convicted felon and not allowed to have firearms, told the officer he had the gun because he was concerned about his safety. He said he had been threatened when a woman brought 4 pounds of marijuana to a friend.

A safe also was found. Hodges refused to give agents the combination.

So the agents brought the safe to the St. Peter Fire Department where equipment known as “the Jaws of Life” was used to pry it open. The equipment is usually used to tear vehicles apart at crashes where victims are trapped inside. The complaint said it’s a method that had been used in the past by task force agents.

Investigators reported a bag containing a pound of marijuana was found inside the safe. A jar with several smaller bags of pot, described as “dub sacks,” also was found. Dub sack is a street term used to describe a bag of drugs worth $20. Those bags weighed a total of more than 2 ounces, the complaint said.

Hodges appeared in Nicollet Count District Court this week for felony charges of possession of a large amount of marijuana and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He’s also facing a gross misdemeanor charge of child endangerment for possessing drugs where a child is living.

Hodges also was arrested in Le Sueur County and charged with terroristic threats for a Jan. 21 incident. He is accused of threatening a woman he knew after picking her up and refusing to let her out of his vehicle.