A man suspected by D.C. police of being a major city heroin dealer learned the hard way Saturday evening that, at least in Washington, it literally pays to "Watch out for the Bull" when sipping Schlitz Malt Liquor.
The television beer commercial that features a bull charging through windows or walls came to life for Donnell K. Jackson and four others as they sat in Jackson's 1981 Lincoln Continental in the heart of the city's Southeast drug corridor, courtesy of D.C. police narcotics officers.
As Jackson, 31, and the others sat stunned, the rear of a nondescript van that had pulled up alongside them burst open and a D.C. policeman wearing a rented bull costume leaped out roaring. At the same time, several other narcotics officers, all sporting badges they had made from Schlitz Malt Liquor cans, surrounded Jackson's bright green car.
By the time it was all over, police had seized $20,000 worth of heroin, $6,800 in cash and a stolen .357 magnum pistol -- and the bull had arrested Jackson and his companions. Three other suspected drug dealers were also arrested from the crowd of about 200 people that gathered to gawk.
"I think the officers did a fine job," Captain Charles Moore of the 7th District said of the bull-bust at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Howard Road. "It did a lot for the morale of the officers, and it was a very affirmative thing.
"It was very conspicuous. It certainly made an impact."
Sergeant John Kornutick, a 13-year veteran of the force who directed the bust, said that he and several other officers thought of using a bull when they noticed that many suspected Southeast drug dealers "drink Schlitz Malt Liquor Ale -- the Bull -- before, during and after making drug transactions on the streets in this area."
Kornutick said that the officers involved in the bull bust originally intended to arrest the suspects for drinking in public but that the discovery of the narcotics changed the situation.
"The whole point was to psychologically devastate these guys," Kornutick said of the raid, which was two weeks in the planning. "And people were so confused -- even . . . drug dealers who usually throw bricks and bottles at us when we make raids -- that we had time to get in there, make the arrests, and get out before they knew what was going on."
Kornutick said the raid was particularly designed to embarrass Jackson.
"We've taken a lot of abuse from him in the past," he said, noting that 7th District police have arrested Jackson several times in recent years. "We really wanted to humiliate him in front of his associates , since he tries to humiliate us all the time.
"Usually it's hard to catch these guys because they have become so sophisticated to our covert methods. Recently, they've been getting wise to us," said Kornutick, who called the raid "100 percent successful."
He explained that, because Southeast drug dealers have developed "a fine sense" for picking out undercover police officers, his men have had to develop new methods to trap suspected drug dealers. Kornutick said that Operation Bull is the latest of 10 ploys his men have used in the past year in an effort to "freak out drug dealers."
Prior to Saturday's bull bust, his unit employed what they called Operation Lawnchair in April. In that case, members of the squad casually set up lawnchairs, portable televisions and munched picnic lunches while conducting surveillance on drug transactions along Southeast's drug-wracked avenues.
"What we're doing is working on their minds. We're working on passive intimidation," Kornutick said.
According to Kornutick, Jackson, of 2613 Douglas Rd. SE, was paroled in 1980 for burglary while armed and rape. He is also wanted by Virginia authorities, Kornutick said, on a charge of possession of heroin.
Jackson was charged Saturday evening following the bull bust with two counts of possession of controlled substances, carrying a firearm without a license, carrying an unregistered firearm and receiving stolen property. He was released yesterday morning on $6,600 bond, police said.
Frank J. Sellinger, who as president of the Milwaukee-based Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company has recently been urging television viewers of Schlitz commercials to "try my Schlitz," was not as excited about the bull bust as local police yesterday, however.
Reached at his home, Sellinger said that he had "absolutely nothing to say about the matter. We use the bull for our advertisements, that's all."
When last spoken to, the eight D.C. policemen were eagerly looking forward to an impromptu celebration of their success by -- what else? -- going out for a beer.
"I think we'll give Schlitz a little business tonight," Kornutick said. CAPTION: Picture 1, Undercover officers, one in a bull costume, seized $20,000 worth of heroin, $6,800 in cash and a pistol in raid Saturday. Metropolitan Police Dept. photo; Picture 2, Officers who worked ob bull bust were Sgt. John Kortnutick, James A. Williams, William R. Haupt, Richard Christiansen, James G. Carpenter, Capt. Charles B. Moore and Alfred McMaster as the bull. By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post