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MURDER ARREST IN BUFFALO SPOTLIGHTS JAMESTOWN'S FIGHT AGAINST DRUG DEALERS

When Antwain Jackson hid from police under a bed in a Riley Street house last week, he was unaware of what law enforcement officials in Jamestown intended for him.

If he had known, he might have tried to find a better hiding place.

After he was dragged from beneath the bed, police took Jackson to Jamestown, where he found he may face the death penalty in the slaying of a New York City man who had moved there to become involved in the drug trade, authorities said Wednesday.

Welcome to Jamestown -- a small city that is taking a hard stand against a two-year-old infiltration of drug dealers who have fled big cities in search of safer places to sell crack cocaine, marijuana and heroin.

In the last 24 months, Jamestown police have encountered purported drug dealers from Buffalo, Detroit, Boston, Rochester and New York City.

"A lot of smaller municipalities with populations under 50,000 in the state are being infiltrated by drug dealers from big cities because it's a much safer haven and there's not the stiff competition they face in big cities," said Jamestown Police Chief William R. MacLaughlin.

Jamestown, with 34,600 people, accounted for 223 arrests on drug-related charges in 1994. A push to make drug dealers feel unwelcome produced 429 arrests last year.

And a special program to evict accused and suspected drug dealers from rental properties has resulted in 15 evictions since 1995.

"The district attorney sends landlords letters advising them that their renters are involved in illegal drug activity and that if they fail to evict the dealers, the city by law will take steps to do it for them and charge the landlords for the costs," MacLaughlin said.

Landlords have cooperated, the chief noted.

"If you're coming here to set up shop, we're going to get you evicted," MacLaughlin said.

Seeking the death penalty is another option in cases involving slayings, he added.

"If they're caught committing a felony murder, the death penalty is certainly something that is open to them," MacLaughlin said.

To be charged with first-degree murder, for which punishment includes the death penalty, the defendant must be accused of killing during the commission of another crime, such as burglary or robbery, law enforcement officials explained.

Jackson, 20, of East Utica Street, is frightened and upset over the prospect of being executed in the Sept. 27 slaying he says he did not commit, according to John V. Elmore, the public defender representing him.

The police have not accused Jackson of firing the gun that sent one bullet into the chest of Phillip Williams, 22, of 102 W. Eighth St., Jamestown, according to Elmore.

"The possibility that somebody could actually face death when they didn't actually do the killing shows a quirk in the law," Elmore said. His client is one of three men charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary in Williams' death.

Jackson as well as LaQuan Harriot and Jason Page, both of New York City, were accused of entering Williams' apartment to look for marijuana they believed he intended to sell.

They did not find any marijuana, but the three may have stolen jewelry and cellular telephones, according to Elmore, who is trying to spare his client the possible death sentence.

"I've had a lot of discussions with the district attorney about a plea to a charge that would bring about something less than the death penalty or life in prison without parole," Elmore said.

James P. Subjack, Chautauqua County district attorney, has 120 days after a defendant has been arraigned to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

He who was unavailable to comment.

Jackson was being held without bail in Chautauqua County Jail in Mayville and is scheduled to appear Friday in Jamestown City Court for a felony hearing. Harriot also is being held without bail. Page remains at large, police said.

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