MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - One of the main organizers at the south Minneapolis homeless encampment is under investigation for dealing heroin at the camp, according to a search warrant.
James Cross is the leader of the group, Natives Against Heroin (NAH), which has been running the tent city for months.
"NAH can’t do it all, but we do what we can,” said Cross weeks ago in an interview with Fox 9. “If we left today, imagine what this would be...strong controlling the weak."
Minneapolis police suspect it's Cross who may be controlling the weak. According to a search warrant, informants and others in the camp say Cross is "involved in selling heroin in the tent camp." While conducting surveillance, police observed Cross "enter a variety of tents for brief stops (2-5 minutes)." One of those tents is occupied by "a known heroin dealer."
Cross denied the allegations in an interview Monday night.
"No, no. I shut down drug houses,” he said. “I shut down people who deal dope out here."
Police got the warrant after Cross posted a video to Facebook, showing members of NAH tearing down the tent of a suspected heroin dealer. Police sources tell Fox 9 it was an orchestrated show, and that Cross is allowing other dealers he controls to stay. That scene followed the overdose of Pamela Rivera, who just a few hours earlier had accused NAH of hoarding food and clothes.
The warrant, obtained on Oct. 4, sought data, images and messages that were part of Cross' Facebook accounts. But the warrant was never served on Facebook. The officer writes, "Nothing was sent by officers to Facebook. Warrant needed to be updated with non-disclosure."
Such a non-disclosure agreement prevents Facebook to alerting its customers for 90 days that law enforcement has obtained a warrant, in order to prevent the destruction of evidence.
It is unclear if law enforcement intended to seal the warrant or if they ever obtained another warrant.
"We’re out here, we’re controlling this,” said Cross. “But we can't stop everything. We are stopping the drug dealers, the drug entrepreneurs trying to make a dollar off their people."
Cross has served 22 years in prison for assault and dealing drugs to his own people. He says he's been clean for 16 years and even lost his son five years ago to a heroin overdose. Now, Cross is under investigation for exploiting the very people he says he's trying to save.
"When you're out here doing a positive thing, you’ve got a background like mine, people say, 'No one can change, no one can change.' I changed,” he said.
Cross suggested Monday night that perhaps the informants and undercover detectives are mistaking him for a twin brother, who has also battled addiction.
Cross also said he's doing the job that police wish they could do. He alleged that police have a stand down order not to enter the camp.
A Minneapolis Police spokesperson says they currently have hourly patrols through the camp and are also handing out cards with a number people can call with anonymous tips.