Drug suspect puts up hourslong fight after city's largest heroin bust ever, police say

$1 million in drugs, $100,000 in cash seized

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati police officers were just expecting to serve a search warrant on Tuesday in Pleasant Ridge. 

Instead, they say they ended up with the city’s biggest heroin bust and the biggest fight from a suspect one DEA agent had ever seen.

Officials said they seized 21 pounds of a heroin and fentanyl mix worth about $1 million, along with $100,000 in cash. And they said they arrested the big dealer behind it all.

But 29-year-old Anthony Penny didn’t go down without a fight, they said. It took seven agents several hours to subdue him after they first tried to arrest him at his Colerain Township home. They said Penny fled to College Hill, caught a cab and ended up at a home on Lawndale Avenue in Pleasant Ridge, where police said he stored his drugs.

Agents said Penny kept asking officers to kill him as they tried to arrest him.

"I've never seen anything like it.  I've never seen anyone fight like Mr. Penny did at the time of the arrest," Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Tim Reagan said Wednesday.

"Our officers were spit on. Our officers were bit. They were punched. They were kicked, and this was all while he was in handcuffs," Reagan said.  "It took seven of us to keep him subdued until fire/rescue could transport him to (the University of Cincinnati Medical Center) for his safety.

“Trying to get him into the ambulance was a handful,” Reagan said.  “Getting him to the hospital was a handful. And once at UC, the doctors, the nurses and the staff that work security there were spit on, were bit. 

"This man fought for hours because he knew what we had seized."

This story took an even stranger twist at the emergency room.

Reagan said he and District 4 police officers were leaving when a van rolled up. A man got out and said a passenger was unresponsive from an overdose. Reagan said for all intents and purposes she was dead.

That man left the scene, but one of the officers had Narcan with him and revived the woman.

"It was a crazy day yesterday," Reagan said.

Reagan said Penny had been supplying "10 to a dozen" drug dealers from all over the area, charging about $120 per gram on the potent drug mixture.

"He was a major distributor in the area. He was a major distributor in Cincinnati  He just didn't stick in the District 4 area to distribute," Reagan said. "Anyone holding this much is one of the tops."

Two unidentified individuals were also arrested in the investigation, and Reagan promised "a whole bunch more arrests." 

Reagan said citizen tips to Cincinnati police brought the DEA into the investigation. Police Chief Eliot Isaac was grateful for the community response.

"Think of the amount of lives that were probably saved,  the amount of violence that's prevented around the sale of this," Isaac said. "I mean, this is a tremendous impactful, impactful arrest."

Jerri Schuitz of the Pleasant Ridge Community Council said that's the kind of proactive that community council members take and encouraged others to do the same.

"If you're comfortable, get out there, write down license plates, take photos, call it in, give as much detail as possible," Schultz said.

Penny appeared in federal court on Wednesday to face charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and assault on a federal law enforcement officer.

Schultz praised all the agencies involved in the investigation, which included the District 4 Violent Crimes Squad, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.

"I'm so happy they did that," Schultz said. "I'm so happy they put in the effort and got it off the streets.  Because ... wow!"

SEE WCPO's Conquering Addiction coverage.

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