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PORTAGE — Porter County police grabbed national attention Thursday night after arresting the hip-hop artist Twista on a drug charge shortly before he was to appear at the Big Shots concert venue at 391 W. U.S. 6 in South Haven.

Twista, whose legal name is Carl Terrell Mitchell, 42, of Chicago, was taken into custody at 10:38 p.m. after the eastbound black Rolls-Royce he was riding in was stopped by police just east of Willowcreek Road on U.S. 6 for following an SUV too closely. Marijuana was found inside, according to Chief Deputy Jeff Biggs of the Porter County police.

Cpl. Paul Czupryn smelled raw marijuana during the traffic stop and questioned the driver, Johnnie Euell, 42, of Frankfort, Illinois, who said he was traveling close to the other vehicle because he knew the occupants, police said. He reportedly admitted the group had smoked marijuana shortly before the traffic stop.

Police said they found a half ounce of marijuana hidden in a fake can at a spot in the vehicle that was accessible to all. All four occupants denied ownership of the drug and were taken into custody.

Also arrested were Euell; Michael Moore, 43, of Matteson, Illinois; and Darrin Woody, 26, of Harvey, Illinois, police said. All face a misdemeanor count of possessing marijuana.

The arrest came during a large police saturation of the area that was mounted, in part, because of alleged gang ties and earlier incidents of violence at shows by both Twista and Montana of 300, the latter of whom is to appear at the venue Friday night, Biggs said.

As many as 45 officers from the state, county, Portage, Kouts and Burns Harbor police departments, as well as the Porter County drug unit and Lake County Gang Unit, took part in the saturation, Biggs said. A repeat of the action is planned for Friday’s concert.

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Extra patrols also targeted aggressive driving and resulted in other arrests.

“This saturation patrol detail was to ensure the safety and security of the citizens of Porter County,” said Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds.

The estimated crowd of 300 that had gathered for Twista’s appearance dispersed peacefully upon hearing that the show was canceled because of the arrest, Biggs said.

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said Friday he intends to pursue a county ordinance requiring venues to have proper bonding, liability insurance and security in place before receiving a permit for performances.

“We just appropriated thousands of additional tax dollars to cover overtime in the PCSD (sheriff’s department),” he said.

A telephone number for Big Shots to seek comment was unavailable.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.