Residents in the affluent and peaceful leafy American suburb of Huntcliff were alarmed recently to see numbers of heavily armed and camouflaged police, some disguised as bushes, surrounding the expensive home of one of their neighbours.
Could it have been an anti-terrorist operation? Perhaps a major drugs or child kidnapping bust? No, it was the Sandy Hills police SWAT team combatting that scourge of society - gambling
Armed with a search warrant and sundry weapons, the police arrested 14 people after moving in on the 8-bedroom house. Lt. Anthony Eskew, commander of police special operations, later told local reporters that police had received information that the home was being used for gambling and might be the target for a home invasion robbery. The police spokesman said that players were invited to the games by coded text messages.
Residents of the area were astonished, scared and not a little alarmed at what one neighbour described as the surreal spectacle unfolding in front of them, and several made emergency telephone calls.
Lt. Eskew claimed that poker was played in the basement, where a bartender served food and drink. The events featured valet parking behind the house, shielding cars from the neighbours' view, Eskew said, alleging that at least two games had been held on the premises in the previous week.
In the raid, police seized more than 5 000 high-quality poker chips, two poker tables, and other items, including several flat-screen TVs.
"Believe me, we were not after Super Bowl gamblers," Eskew said. "It was more than that."
Of the 14 people detained, three men face felony charges because they organised and profited from the poker games, Eskew said. According to police records, three men among those who were arrested were charged with commercial gambling: Allen Edwards, 42, of Hembree Park Terrace, Roswell; Robert Kinner, 26, of Hickory Creek Lane, Woodstock; and Robert Logan, 24, of Roswell Road, Sandy Springs.
The eleven other people detained - most in their mid-20s and including three women - were charged with misdemeanor violations of a city ordinance, according to police records. The eleven were released and face a municipal court hearing in March.