June 4, 2009

Imagine, sitting at your computer, it’s twilight. The front window blinds are open out to the street, it’s peaceful. You’ve been trying to sell your house for five months, and have only had two prospects. The prospective buyers that were supposed to come by today turned out to be a group of Century 21 realtors seeking a preview. No doubt to determine their bid when it goes up for auction due to foreclosure.

DEA report on the raid. Click here to view larger version.
Additional documents:
Search warrant
Incident report

All of a sudden, the dogs began barking. Through the window I saw two men scurrying up to my front door, then a knock. I opened the door and there stood the county sheriff, a man I know. The second fellow I recognize as the chief of police. The sheriff says, “Hi JT… we need to talk with you.” Thinking it’s a social visit, I invite them in for a cup of coffee. My friend the sheriff says, “No, JT we will have to talk outside.” It was then I realized something was up.

We moved out onto the front lawn, and my friend Sheriff John Minor began the story, “JT, in a couple of minutes your home is going to be searched by DEA. A search warrant was issued this afternoon, which I have here. It seems that a group of realtors who viewed your house today, saw what they believe to be a methamphetamine lab in your downstairs bathroom!”

My reaction was a surprised laugh. “You’ve got to be kidding me John!” He replied, “I am really sorry about this, JT, I didn’t know about it until after the warrant was issued, and I am here to make sure that it stays low-key.” He continued, “I have told everyone involved in this that I will buy them the highest priced steak dinner in the county if they find anything drug related in your house.”

The warrant was in good order, so John signaled down the block and within seconds around the corner of my garage came marching four guys in full battle regalia, helmets with visors, body armor, full camouflage, with MP-5’s and M-16s. And then one other fellow in hazmat gear. The team was in my house less than five minutes, when the team leader came out and said, “there’s no meth lab in there… what is it you do in the bathroom, sir?”

[efoods]I am a gunsmith, and work out of my house I restore antique firearm as a specialty, which involves annealing old brass cartridge cases, as well as manufacturing new cases out of other more modern brass for use in these 100+-year-old firearms, which involves heat and water. The heat is provided by a propane torch with which I heat the brass to a cherry red and then quench it in the sink filled with cold water. My downstairs bathroom which I share with my cats, the place for their litter boxes, food dishes etc. is where I do my brass annealing. The process must be done in a dimly lit room, but, it gives off fumes. So on the counter next to the sink there is a box fan with a length of drier vent tubing that attaches to the bathroom ceiling fan and keeps the buildup of noxious fumes from the annealing process from filling the room when I’m working.

It was at this point that the young man, the team leader, smiled and shook my hand, saying, “God bless you Sir! You are keeping the old ones alive.” Referring to the fact that I restore old firearms. At this point we all stood around and chatted for about 20 minutes. My first question was, “Are realtors being trained by DEA to sniff out drugs these days?”

The answer was that real estate companies are giving DEA courses on how to identify certain types of drug manufacturing processes, and how to report them. Any time a methamphetamine lab is suspected, DEA must be called in because of the hazardous materials involved. The short answer is yes.

I asked my friend Sheriff John Minor what would’ve happened had he not known and came to warn me of what was about to happen, what would have been the standard procedure? His answer was chilling. Because I was there, the house was occupied so all exits would have been covered, the main force would have hammer-jacked open the front door and quickly entered, locked and loaded.

The look on the man’s face told the story, it was obvious that it would’ve been a horrible mistake, in this particular case it would have turned very ugly very quickly. As it turned out what was described by the realtor in the complaint that caused the warrant to be issued was fantasy, a delusion, or a fabrication… a fantasy that could very easily have gotten people killed.

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