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Nancy Reagan witnesses drug bust

By G. LUTHER WHITINGTON

LOS ANGELES -- Former first lady Nancy Reagan, leader of the 'Just Say No' anti-drug movement, stood outside a seedy South Los Angeles cocaine crack house Thursday night as a SWAT team stormed inside and arrested suspected drug dealers.

The officers forced entry into the house fortified with iron bars on the doors and windows about 10 p.m. with Reagan and Police Chief Daryl Gates watching from nearby.

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The former first lady, wearing a blue Police Department-issue jacket, then followed the chief inside and watched as several grams of cocaine were seized and 14 suspects -- seven men and seven women -- were handcuffed on the ground and carried away for booking.

'There were people on the floor, the rooms were unfurnished, small little rooms,' said a visibly shaken Reagan after the drug raid. 'It was very, very depressing.'

'It's awful to see that these people have no lives, and that's very sad,' she said outside the ramshackle house, the front door of which had been smashed in.

'We did not have to use the battering ram, but we did force entry into the rock house,' Police Cmdr. William Booth said.

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Gates said the house was being used for selling crack, a concentrated form of cocaine, and also as a 'smoke house,' where people buying the drug can smoke it.

Earlier in the night, Reagan observed street buys by undercover officers in downtown Los Angeles.

'We really gave Mrs. Reagan an opportunity to see what the dope trade is all about,' said Gates, who is exploring the possibility of being a Republican candidate for governor in 1990. 'We didn't really want her to be, but she was right there up front.'

Booth added, 'We couldn't have stopped her if we had wanted to. She's a very spunky lady.'

'The first lady had shown an interest in observing something like this, so we extended an invitation and she accepted,' Booth said, adding that she first met with Gates to discuss the drug problem in Los Angeles three weeks ago.

As first lady, Reagan led a highly publicized 'Just Say No' program urging children and teenagers to refuse drugs.

The Reagans live in Bel Air, an affluent area about 15 miles north of the depressed South Los Angeles neighborhood where the raid occurred.

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