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Member of Operation JAWbreaker dies while in custody

Wade Ennis, 60, was one of three individuals named as masterminds behind the 2018 drug bust, Operation JAWbreaker, which resulted in the arrests of more than 20 individuals across North Carolina and Georgia.

On Thursday, Ennis was pronounced dead at Harris Regional Hospital. The North Carolina State Examiner’s Office concluded an autopsy on Friday, however, those results are not yet available.

According to Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, Ennis, a Highlands resident, complained of feeling sick while in custody at Macon County Detention Center on Wednesday. Ennis was evaluated by Detention Center medical personnel who determined he should be immediately transported to Angel Hospital.

On Thursday, Angel Medical Center ordered a transfer to Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, however, while in route to Asheville, Ennis suffered a medical emergency. EMS detoured to Harris Regional Hospital where Ennis was later pronounced deceased.

“We are communicating with District Attorney Ashley Welch’s Office, the NCSBI, as well as the N.C. Jail Inspector’s Office, during the course of the investigation into this inmate death,” Holland said.

Last month, Ennis was arrested in Transylvania County with additional drug charges and subsequently was rearrested on a True Bill of Indictment for Harboring a Fugitive in Macon County. The fugitive Ennis was allegedly harboring was James Steele, one of the other three members of Operation JAWbreaker. Ennis was in custody on the Harboring a Fugitive charge at the time of his death.

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