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Drug task force nabs suspected heroin dealer in Mt. Pleasant

| Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Just 24 hours after a Mt. Pleasant man was shot four times during a drug deal gone bad, the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force was back in town setting up an undercover buy for eight bricks of heroin.

Robert K. Harris, 21, of 230 Sterling St., Pittsburgh, was charged Friday with five counts of manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance after his arrest late Thursday by Mt. Pleasant Assistant Chief Dan Zilli with about 500 stamp bags of suspected heroin and $2,600 in alleged drug sale proceeds. He was ordered held on $100,000 bond set by Norvelt District Judge Roger Eckels.

The brazenness of the large drug buy in the small borough of 4,700 residents coming so soon after a much-publicized drug-related shooting there Wednesday came as no surprise to police Chief Steve Ober.

“The trafficking of heroin has really skyrocketed over the past 12 years. People involved with heroin ... they don't have the same rationale as you or I,” Ober said.

“It doesn't surprise me. But it's really no different here than anywhere else,” he said.

Harris was arrested about 10:30 p.m. Thursday after members of the task force used an informant to set up a drug buy in the parking lot of Kraisinger's Market on South Quarry Street. Harris was arrested immediately after the alleged purchase of 400 bags of heroin. Police said $2,600 in marked bills given to the informant was found on Harris.

Police subsequently discovered Harris had about 100 additional packets of heroin in his possession, according to the affidavit Zilli filed before Eckels.

Just 24 hours earlier, Zilli arrested Keenan D. Frye, 18, of 230 B Clay Ave., Mt. Pleasant, following “a drug deal gone bad” several blocks away on Warden Avenue.

About 10:53 p.m. Wednesday, police allege, Frye shot and seriously injured Joshua Grimm. Frye is incarcerated in the county prison on $150,000 bail for charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, simple assault and possession and manufacture of a controlled substance.

Zilli was among several police units that descended upon the intersection of Warden Alley and South Silver Street after the shooting.

They learned that a man had just walked into the emergency room at Excela Health Frick Hospital, where he collapsed with multiple gunshot wounds.

Grimm was later flown to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment.

Witnesses told police they saw Frye and Grimm walking down South Silver Street together as they argued. The altercation escalated, and Frye “pulled a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun and fired four shots,” according to the affidavit.

Police issued an alert for Frye, who ran off, and state police and other investigators began a search.

About three hours after the shooting, state police found Frye early Thursday morning walking along Route 31, between Mt. Pleasant and Ruffsdale. He was carrying a backpack containing a plastic bag of marijuana, a digital scale, a loaded Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver and numerous spent rounds, police said.

Preliminary hearings for both Harris and Frye are tentatively scheduled on Thursday before Eckels.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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