Meth 'lab' bust is an eye-opener
May 12, 2010Editor's note: The following is another in a series of columns by Doug Hunter as he rides along with deputies from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department. The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication.
We long knew it was coming, the most vulgar of all drugs. Methamphetamine. Preparations had been made and planned for years. The drug has been found in raids, traffic stops and in body searches. The actual laboratory where it is made was relatively rare for St. Clair County. That changes on May 4, 2010.
A coordinated raid organized and lead by Lt. Rick Mouilleseaux of the St. Clair County Drug Task Force stops production within three days of this most brutal drug.
Agents from the federal government's Drug Enforcement Agency, the Michigan State Police, the Port Huron Fire Department and Tri-Hospital EMS Assist our own county Drug Task Force. The arduous training, drills and planning pay off as no injuries are incurred by anyone.
The briefing room is quiet as the assault is planned. There are few questions. The raiders all know what to do and what is expected of them. No fear, only a slight apprehension of the situation inside the ranch house on Union Street. All the participants have been on drug raids, but this time is different.
To make "meth," a volatile mixture of accelerants, white gas, ether, fire, and chemicals could produce gases and vapors such as chlorine, phosphine, hydrogen or chloride. A simple or careless action can produce a catastrophe or a mega-catastrophe such as fire and explosion causing poisonous gases to be produced.
The time is set. H. hour will be 15:00 hours. Coordination of all forces is imperative. Any mistake can have great consequence. The lives of many could be in peril.
Because of the multiple hazards, self-contained Hazmat (Hazardous Material) suits will be worn along with full body armor and helmets. Spirits are high as the deputies and special agents don their gear and load their weapons.
The DEA agents bring with them from Detroit a mobile laboratory. This van contains everything that will be necessary for an extended assault and the equipment to decontaminate individuals, friend or foe.
|Officials inspect items found in ‘meth lab’ home where the drug was being mixed in paint cans.|
Lt. Mouilleseaux meticulously checks with each division to assure precision, using his two cell phones. The vehicles line up and deputies and agents board the van in the order they will be exiting.
The last to enter is Lt. Mouilleseaux with the ram to break down the door. He will lead the assault, but cannot enter the dwelling because he lacks a self-contained life-supporting suit.
As instructed, I get into the third vehicle and follow the portable laboratory. It is only about 70 degrees, but the bullet proof vest I am wearing causes me to sweat. I can only imagine how uncomfortable the deputies and agents are in the hazmat suits. Approaching the target I notice fire trucks, ambulances, patrol cars and men in assault uniforms in plain, unmarked cars. They quietly form in line behind us or take side streets to quickly contain all escape routes from the ranch house on Union Street. At precisely 15:00 hours we stop in front of the address. The double doors blow open and the assault team exits.
Special Response Team deputies seem to come out of thin air as Lt. Mouilleseaux bellows out "Sheriff department. We have a search warrant." Less than a second later, the ram crashes into the door of the home.
The entry goes just like it was planned. A surgical strike, flawless in execution. Then the shout, "Suspects escaping rear entry." Then within seconds come the words, "In custody. Perimeter secure."
The Lieutenant and Sgt. Jim Spadafor motion for me to come and inspect the seven inhabitants of the "meth lab" as they are removed from the dwelling. The chemical smell is almost overwhelming as I cross the sidewalk.
The fire department is already stringing out fire hose. Ambulances are in place and attendants stand with stretchers, all wearing surgical gloves. They know what to expect. I was not ready for what awaited me.
They resemble human beings but that is where it ceases. These were beings from a different dimension. Above an animal but no longer human, their minds are lost, perhaps gone forever. They can say words but cannot put them together in a sentence. The first two, a man and a woman, are so emaciated they remind me of photos of the Holocaust show on the History Channel. Their eye sockets sunken into their heads and they can't focus. They are basically lifeless. The mouth barren of teeth, have only black rotted gums. Arms and legs so thin you can't even trust them to support a body.
Emerging from the front door the DEA agent carries a child in his arms, wrapped in a blanket. Standing next to a female ambulance attendant, I hear her say "Oh my God," as tears well in her eyes and spill onto her cheeks.
Three males and another female are removed from the residence and placed on the lawn. The child is crying but the attendants and medics cannot administer care. The 5-year-old has to be decontaminated first. He is toxic and a threat to every caregiver, no matter how hard it pulls on your heart. Procedure is imperative.
Carefully the agent lays him on the plastic lined gurney. With reassuring words the fireman and medic cut his clothes away with surgical scissors. When completed, they apply a solution with brushes to the naked body to remove all contaminants. When finished, the fireman raises the child into the air and another fireman rinses him with a fire hose at low pressure.
The medic quickly checks his vitals. there is a breathing problem. Immediately he is taken into a waiting ambulance and rushed to the hospital where he will be placed on oxygen.
One by one, the six adults are taken to the back yard to be decontaminated. Ambivalent to the world around them, they stand while their clothes are cut from their bodies and are scrubbed with brushes and hosed down with fire hoses. Then they're whisked away to jail.
A 21-year-old male wearing a Yale Bulldogs football t-shirt brings it all home to me, and it should for you as well. It is here and it is up to us the public, the police and the politicians to contain and eradicate the plague that now assaults us. No excuses politicians because you are the weakest part of the triangle.
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Note from Doug: I apologize that my submissions have been fewer, but with spring planting and working six days, time is scarce and some nights on patrol things are very quiet. But that's what we strive for. As time allows, I will submit stories for your contemplation.
Doug Hunter is a lifelong Capac resident, a farmer, historian and writer. His great-great grandfather, Noble Hunter, founded the Capac Journal in the late 1800s.