Based off the most recent complaints from concerned residents, NOPD Sixth District Detective Jeff Giroir of the general-assignment unit set up surveillance of the 700 block of Washington Avenue around 6 a.m. Tuesday, said Commander Bob Bardy. Around 8 a.m., a man arrived in the block in a black Infiniti, and Giroir soon began observing hand-to-hand transactions that he believed to be drug sales, Bardy said.
After one such transaction, officers followed the customers for a few blocks and then stopped them, and found a bag of heroin in the vehicle, Giroir said. Based on that evidence, they detained the man on Washington Avenue, who was identified as 59-year-old Ernest J. Gaskin Jr., Giroir said.
With the help of a police dog, police searching inside Gaskin’s car found more than a dozen individually wrapped bags of heroin and one large bag hidden in various locations, for a total amount seized of approximately 32 grams, Giroir said. Street prices of heroin can run around $200 for a gram, but when cut with various other agents and sold to individual users, a gram can lead to $600 in sales for a dealer, Giroir said.
Gaskin also had $934 in cash on him, Giroir said.
“His listed address was ‘homeless,’” Giroir said. “I don’t know how that’s possible when he’s driving that vehicle and walking around with a little less than $1,000 in his pocket.”The stretch of Washington between Annunciation and Chippewa has long been known as a trouble spot to Irish Channel residents, and Bardy touted Gaskin’s arrest as the latest enforcement action in response to residents’ complaints there. Among the shootings near the location in recent years, a teen was shot in the leg in the 700 block of Washington in December 2010, a dozen rounds were fired between two vehicles at Washington and Chippewa in May 2012, two people were wounded in a shooting at Washington and Annunciation in November 2012, and 18-year-old Nolan Alofipo was shot to death at Washington and Chippewa in February 2013.
In an enforcement sweep following the November 2012 shooting, three men were arrested on drug charges at Washington and Annunciation — one of whom was Gaskin, charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of crack cocaine. In December 2013, Gaskin was later found not guilty on the cocaine charge but guilty of possession of marijuana, and sentenced to 100 days in jail with credit for time served, court records show.