MANKATO — Two more suspects are wanted in a three-month cocaine sting that ended with a high-speed chase through the River Hills Mall parking lot, other retail parking lots and on Highway 14.
Donny Emery-Lee Lawson, 30, was arrested June 4 after he allegedly sold cocaine to an undercover officer with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force during a meeting in the mall lot. When other investigators moved in to make an arrest, Lawson fled, police said.
Lawson allegedly led officers on a chase that reached speeds of more than 50 mph in the parking lot and about 100 mph on the highway. More than a half ounce of cocaine was found.
Arrest warrants were issued Thursday for two additional suspects who also are accused of selling cocaine to the agent during stings last winter.
One of those suspects, 28-year-old James Arthur Mallett Jr. of St. Paul, was released from prison in October after serving more than two years for a weapons crime. Mallett also is facing drug possession charges in Hennepin County and has been in custody there since his arrest April 11. The other warrant has been issued for Ciera Marie Manning, 23, of St. Paul.
The sting started with a tip from an informant Feb. 20, according to the complaints against Mallett and Manning. A drug deal was set up with Mallett for the following day after the informant provided the agent with a cellphone number. About a half gram of cocaine was sold for $40 during that transaction.
When a second cocaine deal was set up for March 13, Manning and Lawson allegedly sold about 1.5 grams of cocaine to the agent for $160. Another gram was allegedly sold to the agent, again by Manning and Lawson, the following day for $80.
All of the deals were allegedly set up using the same cellphone number. The agent also reported she used Facebook and law enforcement records to link Mallett, Manning and Lawson and identify them by name. Manning had allegedly told the agent she was Mallett’s sister and regularly sold drugs for him. A Facebook page for Manning’s sister said she was engaged to Mallett.
On May 29 the agent received a text message from the cellphone linked to the three suspects that said “back round,” the complaints said. Mallett was already in custody in Hennepin County for the April 11 incident in Brooklyn Park.
Only Lawson arrived for the final deal at about 5 p.m. June 4, which was set up for the River Hills Mall parking lot, the agent reported. He allegedly sold about 2.5 grams for $200 before other undercover drug agents moved in to make an arrest.
Even though vehicles were used to attempt to box Lawson in, he was able to drive away before one of the agents pulled in front of him. Lawson nearly hit a pedestrian as he sped out of the J.C. Penney parking lot, the agents reported. Uniformed officers in marked squad cars were called in to continue the chase as the suspect’s vehicle sped past Target and The Olive Garden before leaving the mall area.
The chase continued through other retail parking lots in the area before the car turned on to Highway 22. One officer reported seeing what looked like cocaine being thrown out of the vehicle near the intersection of Madison Avenue and Highway 22. Lawson allegedly got on to Highway 14 and hit speeds in excess of 100 mph before pulling over.
Agents reported finding 21 small bags of cocaine along Highway 22 and 13 small bags of cocaine in Lawson’s car. Two more bags of cocaine were found at about 3:15 a.m. June 5 when an officer searched the Madison Avenue intersection again. The total weight of the bags was just over 15 grams, which is more than a half ounce.