Weapons arrest halts grieving father's anti-drug mission

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Anguished over his daughter's overdose death, John Cramsey became a crusader against the heroin crisis in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, starting a group for concerned parents and recovering addicts and going on self-described missions to save young people from the scourge of addiction.

"I have yet to grieve like I should as a normal person. ... Right now I'm on a mission, I can't stop," Cramsey said at an Allentown drug awareness gathering in March . "I'm the inoculation to this disease. I'm going to make a damn difference. Enough is enough."

Cramsey posted on Facebook early Tuesday that he was heading to New York to "rescue" a 16-year-old girl whose friend had just overdosed. As his neon-painted pickup truck emblazoned with logos from the gun range he operates prepared to enter the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City, a police officer noticed a crack on the windshield and stopped it, according to a criminal complaint.

Police say the truck was carrying a cache of weapons including a semi-automatic military-style rifle, a shotgun and five handguns, along with other tactical gear. It was unclear what, if anything, the weapons had to do with their plans.

Cramsey and the two other Pennsylvania residents in the truck — Dean Smith, 53, of Whitehall, and Kimberly Arendt, 29, of Lehighton — pleaded not guilty Wednesday to weapons charges. They also pleaded not guilty to drug charges for a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia police say they found in the pickup.

Attorneys for the three said the search was illegal and they will seek to have the evidence suppressed. A Hudson County judge declined their defense lawyers' requests to give them the option of paying 10 percent of their $75,000 cash bail.

"The police officers said they stopped them because they saw a crack in the windshield, but clearly that's not what happened," James Lisa, Cramsey's attorney, said after Wednesday's arraignment. "They saw all the decals and the painting basically espousing their Second Amendment rights and that's why they stopped them."

Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Tom Zuppa took issue with the defense lawyers' characterization of the case as "just another gun possession case" being blown out of proportion due to media attention.

"This conduct had the potential to bring danger to the destination of these defendants," he said.

New Jersey has tougher gun regulations than Pennsylvania and requires guns to be unloaded and inaccessible while driving.

The arrest has friends and fellow members of Cramsey's "Enough is Enough" anti-drug group in the Allentown area reeling.

Lyn Baker, who started the group with Cramsey, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it has helped dozens of drug addicts, including going to hotels and homes to help.

Cramsey has posted on Facebook about his work helping young addicts, including pictures of himself wearing bulletproof vests and with guns. Baker said Cramsey "likes to talk a big game because the adrenaline is always rushing after we bring someone back."

She said she thought Cramsey had been growing depressed and withdrawn in the months since the death of his daughter, a 20-year-old model found dead along with her boyfriend, in February.

"Particularly when it comes to rescuing females, to him it's like rescuing his daughter," Baker said. "He's just adamant that I have to make every attempt to get this person help."

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said he met briefly with Cramsey last week about staging an anti-drug benefit concert.

"He just seemed like a passionate, grieving father who wanted to do something about the heroin epidemic," Pawlowski said Wednesday.

Baker said Arendt, the girl's former counselor, received a call from the girl seeking help on Monday. Cramsey wrote on Smith's Facebook page early Tuesday that he was driving to New York to "do an extraction" of a 16-year-old girl after her friend died of an overdose at the hotel they were staying at.

The New York Police Department declined to comment, but two New York law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the NYPD had located the teenager and that she wasn't in any danger at the time. The officials also confirmed that there was a nonsuspicious overdose death in the city that matched the claim on Facebook.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Cyndi Angeles, the mother of the girl named by Cramsey, told the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown that her daughter doesn't do heroin.

___

Cornfield reported from Trenton. Associated Press writers Tom Hays, in New York, and Michael Rubinkam, in Zionsville, Pennsylvania, contributed to this story.

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