By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — At least two people have been arrested in a sting that tracked an alleged Mankato cocaine distributor as he traveled to Rochester to pick up what police suspect was about three ounces of the drug.
An agent with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force received a tip in November from an informant who said Devin Deon Taylor, 23, of Mankato was involved in a large-scale crack cocaine distribution ring. The information was used to justify a search warrant that allowed the task force to secretly place a GPS device on a car Taylor was using.
After agents did surveillance and confirmed Taylor was using the car, which was owned by someone else, the device was installed. It was programmed to alert an agent whenever the car started or stopped moving. It also was programmed to let the agent know when the car left or entered the Mankato area and left or entered the Rochester area, where Taylor was allegedly picking up cocaine from a larger distributor.
Around noon on Dec. 1 an agent received an alert saying the car was leaving Mankato and heading east on Highway 14. About an hour and 40 minutes later the agent received another text saying the car was leaving Rochester and heading east on Highway 14 after being in Rochester for a half hour.
The agent called a state trooper with a drug dog and asked him to watch for the car on the highway. Taylor was stopped in the 2003 Chevy Impala in Owatonna, just west of the I-35 intersection. The dog sniffed the car and indicated drugs were inside.
When the trooper searched the car, he allegedly found a large chunk of cocaine. At about the same time the task force agent arrived at the scene and inspected the chunk of white powder. He reported it looked like it had been broken off the corner of a larger kilogram-sized brick. The cocaine weighed 91 grams, or three and a quarter ounces, according to a criminal complaint filed in Steele County District Court.
Investigators also sent police officers to a room at the Days Inn hotel in Mankato to watch it while they applied for a search warrant. Taylor had a key card for the room when he was arrested, according to a affidavit requesting the warrant. Investigators later learned that Taylor, who had rented the room on Nov. 24, had apparently attempted to check out by phone while the car was being searched in Owatonna.
When officers arrived at the hotel, they found 21-year-old Anthony Dawayne Hibbler of Minnesota Lake in the area of Taylor’s room. He was confronted because he is a known associate of Taylor’s and the officers were concerned he might be alerting anyone who was inside the room. A BB gun that looked like a real gun was found in Hibbler’s pocket, according to a complaint filed in Blue Earth County charging Hibbler with carrying a gun in a public place and driving after revocation.
No one was in the room, but a digital scale, a box of sandwich bags, a box of baking soda and several other items were taken when it was searched by drug agents, according to the search warrant. Taylor was charged with first-degree drug possession and his bail was set at $75,000 when he appeared in Steele County court last week.
Taylor, who is originally from Detroit, Mich., and was identified as a predatory offender before he moved to Mankato, has had several previous assault convictions.
He also was arrested in June 2011 after investigators found a gun and cocaine in a Glenwood Avenue apartment. A witness or witnesses told investigators Taylor and two other men were at the apartment passing a gun around and talking about a plan to do something with it.
Assault and drug charges from that incident were dismissed.