It is a rare day that a chief of police tells it as it is! Today was that day! Bennie Raynor and I had been trading emails for a couple of days, and with it being a long weekend we agreed that Monday would be a good day to talk.
His department in the town of Pearl River is not running the Zachary Pittman case, the young man went missing some 8 miles out of his jurisdiction, it is being handled instead by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office. I had heard good things about Bennie Raynor from family members, and wanted to just get an idea about Pearl River.
Everything that I had been told about Bennie Raynor was absolutely true! He was both gracious, and informative.
His department has no control or direct involvement with the investigation, but they are willing to help in any way they can. A great example of that occurred two weeks ago. Zachary Pittman’s mother Christy Ragas had organized a search of a swamp area. Cadaver Dogs, foot soldiers, and a boat with a Side Scan Sonar, all were volunteers, all donated their time and expertise. Bennie Raynor permitted use of his resources to set up a command post for the group. When you consider that his entire staff of officers is less than 10, this is really quite something!
He has been the chief of police of Pearl River for 28 years. I understand that later this year he must once again face the battle for re-election. I do not think he will face much serious competition.
Most Police Chiefs like to beat around the bush. I had a very direct question, and I received a very direct answer. The more I poke around into the search for what happened to Zachary Pittman, the more convinced I become that drugs play a part. I do not think that Zachary was a dealer, I don’t even think that he was much of a consumer, but I do think he knew those that were, or indeed are. The question I put to Bennie was â€œAre drugs a serious problem in the areaâ€?
His reply was candid. Yes they are a problem, in the past month his department has rolled up two meth labs! This is in a town with about 2200 residents!
In fact we talked about drugs at some length. Even small towns like Pearl River are suffering from their effects. It has become a significant issue. He pointed out an interesting statistic, the drugs are changing, what is old again is new again. In the past year there have been at least 9 arrests involving Heroine.
While this interview did nothing to advance the search for Zachary Pittman, it did a great deal for me. I am so impressed that people like Bennie Raynor are out there. Obviously he has problems within his own area, but he is a man willing to help out when his help is needed.
I know I speak for Zach’s family in saying thank you.
Simon and Jan Barrett