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Homeless Mom Arrested on Drug-Dealing Charges

Tanya McDowell, who has attracted nationwide attention after being charged with illegally enrolling her son at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk, was arrested Friday on three warrants on multiple drug charges. The Norwalk police arrest log lists 28 charges against McDowell, who was arrested at 3:57 p.m. Police Chief Harry Rilling said McDowell had marijuana and crack cocaine in her possession when she was arrested in front of Columbus Magnet School. She was being held on $200,000 bond.

Charges include possession of narcotics and marijuana, sales of narcotics and marijuana and possession and sales within 1,500 feet of a school or public housing complex. A bond of $50,000 was set for McDowell, 33, for each of the three warrants, and a $50,000 was set for the drug charges resulting from her arrest. Her court date is listed as June 22.

Rilling said the arrest stemmed from a covert operation that resulted from tips police received from Norwalk residents. "We received information that Tanya was out dealing drugs," he said. "Obviously the officers were concerned because of the high-profile case with the school. I said, 'Well that doesn't change things, if she's dealing, she needs to be prosecuted like anybody else.'"

Rilling said two warrants are pending against McDowell in Bridgeport for alleged drug offenses. He said he could not be specific about the allegations that led to the charges levied against her Friday but said they involved drug sales on the streets of Norwalk within the last four to five weeks. Officers found the marijuana and crack cocaine on her when she was being processed at police headquarters.

McDowell, who was convicted of a bank robbery 10 years ago, was arrested in Norwalk in November on drug charges. In February, she was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree breach of peace after allegedly threatening her babysitter, Ana Marques.

McDowell used Marques' address to enroll her 5-year-old son at Brookside. She removed him in January and says she was asked to do so by a school representative. Norwalk schools have issued a statement implying that isn't true, and two staff members of Brookside said this week they had no knowledge of that.

In April, she was charged with larceny for misrepresenting her address to enroll her son. The larceny charge represents the cost of educating her child for a year, estimated to be $15,686.

McDowell appeared in court Tuesday. That evening, the NAACP held a rally at Brookside to support equal education for all children in Connecticut. McDowell attended and was greeted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, keynote speaker , who promised to review her case. Young people held up signs asking why, of all the people who have illegally registered their children in Norwalk schools, McDowell was the only one arrested. McDowell spoke and said she would "do it all again."

McDowell has said she is homeless, sleeping in the Bridgeport apartment of a friend. When she was arrested in April she said she sometimes stays at the Norwalk Open Door Shelter, according to police.

Bill Okwuosa, who became the director of the shelter in March, said in April that McDowell had been a resident but had not been there in more than a year, after being asked to leave. He said he had invited her for a hearing on the matter. McDowell said all she wanted from the shelter was food, but she hadn't come in for a meal, although he had seen her walk by many times.

McDowell spends much of her time near the shelter. She was there Friday, with her son, standing on the sidewalk and chatting with others who hang out in the area.

Rilling did not know who was looking after McDowell's son. "I assume the child is with the babysitter, or some caretaker," he said. Rilling said it might be McDowell's mother and "of course" the officers had made certain arrangements had been made, perhaps by the Department of Children and Families.

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