MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Dozens have been arrested for the most violent crimes in the Mid-South, and WREG got an exclusive look at how the U.S. Marshals Service tracked down some of those fugitives during a special operation.
“We launched Operation North Star, which is a department of justice initiative to reduce violent crime by apprehending dangerous fugitives,” said Tyreece Miller, the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee. “Memphis was selected as one of 10 cities where this initiative is happening.”
For weeks, Miller said three teams led by the U.S. Marshals Service with help from local, state and federal agencies worked simultaneously in the Memphis area looking for dangerous fugitives.
“We are talking about murderers, attempted murderers, robbery suspects, rape suspects, sex offenders,” said Miller.
WREG Investigators were the only media who went out with one of those teams involved in the operation.
We watched the team track down one fugitive to a Whitehaven apartment where they surrounded the complex with guns and a K-9.
Their research and planning continued up until the very last moment. Before executing each arrest, we watched the team huddle together to delegate roles and discuss details.
“Our fugitive would not come out of the house,” said Special Deputy Gates. “We even brought our K-9 dog up. We saw his foot when the dog took one of the pillows away from where he was hiding. He was hiding underneath the bed.”
The man who had been on the run finally surrendered. Dezmond Lofties was arrested for a list of violent charges. There had been a warrant out for his arrest, and he became a target of a special operation.
“You have this small group of people committing the majority of the crime. So statistically, if you arrest these people and get them off the street, you will reduce crime,” he said.
Miller said many targets on their list committed violent crimes before, including Lofties.
A woman who didn’t want to be identified told us Lofties robbed her mother in 2019, outside a store near the Peppertree Apartments and a senior housing facility. She was 72 years old.
“She just wanted to go to the corner store, because she didn’t walk well. That was the closest one to them,” she said. “My mother called me, and she was terrified. She was so scared and told me she had gotten robbed and got everything — her money, her cards, her ID, everything.”
Her mother later told officers that “she clung to her walker in fear.”
“She was about halfway between the store and complex. He came up behind her and put his hand in her pocket. Told her to shut up, because she screamed,” the woman said.
Police charged Lofties for the crime a month later. In May 2019, he was sentenced to three years. However, he was only required to serve 30% of his sentence and had already earned 77 days of pre-trial jail credits.
So he walked free in December 2020, after only spending a few months behind bars.
“I’m angry. I’m angry. I’m angry because you have to continue to feel scared. At my mother’s age, you should be living a life of enjoyment. You can’t enjoy life you are scared,” the woman said.
Lofties is now charged with a number of new crimes including two counts of aggravated robbery.
Our investigation uncovered court documents stating that five months after Lofties got out of prison, he allegedly sold drugs in a parking lot, and had an extended firearm magazine. That firearm was reported stolen out of Tipton County.
Two months later, he was accused of robbing a woman with a black semi-automatic pistol. Four months after that, police say he robbed another person with a firearm reportedly stolen from a car in Shelby County.
Lofties was back in court Thursday, facing a judge yet again. His bond was revoked.
“She has not been back to that store. She has not been back to that store,” said the woman as she shook her head.
She told us she’s grateful the U.S. Marshals Service was able to find Lofties. She just hopes the legal system takes notice of their efforts.
“If we don’t start making things stick, giving them harder rules, harder punishments and if we don’t go up the ladder, it’s all for nothing,” she said.