Bell County sting operation

Here are mugshots of 10 suspects arrested Tuesday and Thursday during a Bell County prostitution sting operation.

A former Belton police officer charged during a Bell County prostitution sting last week was recognized by a deputy when he was arrested.

Killeen resident Mark Williams, 58, a former Belton officer, was among 10 suspects, including three active-duty soldiers, charged with solicitation of prostitution, once a Class A misdemeanor but now a state jail felony effective Sept. 1 under House Bill 2975.

Paul Romer, a Belton spokesman said last week he did not know the employment dates of Williams, who hadn’t worked for the city in more than 20 years. Paper documents beyond that are in storage, he said.

However, a deputy involved in the prostitution sting recognized Williams as a fellow police academy graduate from many years ago, Lt. Stacey McClinton of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department said.

“The deputy recognized him as a graduating from the police academy together,” McClinton told the Telegram. “He knew (Williams) went to work as a police officer in Belton.”

Others arrested were active-duty soldiers Christopher Knox, 40, of Jarrell, Marc Sanon, 34, of Killeen, and James Gradys, 24, of Fort Hood, along with Billy Williams, 37, of Spring, Eric Kilton, 45, of Killeen, Brian Turner, 64, of Killeen, Francisco Tamez, 38, of Temple, Shane Pagel, 39, of Harker Heights and Michael Morris, 53, of Salado, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The sting was conducted Sept. 14-16 by the Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety in coordination with Fort Hood law enforcement, according to a news release.

Soldier information

Fort Hood released information on Wednesday about the three soldiers arrested.

Sanan is a second lieutenant who enlisted in the Army in 2014. He is a medical surgical nurse who was subsequently commissioned as an officer in 2020.

Knox, a sergeant first class, is a combat medic specialist assigned to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood. He enlisted in the Army in 1999, Fort Hood said.

Gradys is a specialist assigned to the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Hood, according to post public information officials.

Sting operation

The prostitution and sex trafficking operation, conducted in Temple and Killeen, resulted in five arrests on Sept. 14 when an undercover female deputy was staged at a location during the sting, dubbed John Suppression Initiative Operation.

Five others were arrested Sept. 16 with the help of another undercover deputy on Thursday, the department said.

The sting involved authorities placing advertisements on known online sites to attract people interested in buying sexual services. The goal of the operation, officials said, was to affect the demand side of prostitution.

“If there is no demand, there is no need for the service,” the Sheriff’s Department said.