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Police clean up drugs

The Washington State Patrol Clandestine Lab Team came to a Fort Nugent Road home Tuesday to clean up a methamphetamine manufacturing operation discovered the day before by investigators with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Men in moonsuits hauled out a tank of ammonia gas, dry ice, fertilizer, rock salt, lye and other common chemicals from a basement of a little red house packed full of dirty car seats and ankle-deep with raw sewage and water.

The arrest of three men at the house Monday was the latest in a series of busts on North Whidbey involving cocaine, meth and makeshift labs. Over the weekend, an investigation led by the Oak Harbor Police Department resulted in the execution of three search warrants, the seizure of crack cocaine and the arrests of eight people.

Last Thursday, the Island County Sheriff’s Office arrested two separate groups of people who were caught with the precursors of meth. Three men were arrested on suspicious of meth-related crimes while four others were taken into custody on outstanding warrants.

“We’re on a roll,” Sgt. Mike Beech with the Island County Sheriff’s Office said.

According to Beech, detectives served a search warrant on the Fort Nugent Road home Monday after receiving information from a confidential information. Beech said they discovered “an active meth lab.” The resident was in the process of the producing ammonia gas, an ingredient in meth production, when detectives showed up.

“There was a very strong smell of ammonia,” Beech said. The detectives quickly arrested the three men and cordoned off the house until the state patrol team could respond to safely handle the materials.

The 33-year-old resident of the house was arrested on suspicion of manufacture of meth. A 20-year-old man was wanted on a warrant. An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to manufacture meth.

On Saturday, Oak Harbor Police Department’s high-risk entry team served a search warrant on three North Whidbey homes, following a six-month undercover drug investigation.

Sgt. Tim Sterkel, the department’s drug enforcement officer, said a total of eight people were arrested on crack cocaine and methamphetamine-related charges, while one suspect remains at large.

According to Sterkel, the police worked with Island County Sheriff’s Office and Naval Criminal Investigative Service during the course of the investigation into “a North Whidbey crack cocaine trafficking gang.” A confidential informant introduced an undercover Navy security officer to the crack dealers. The undercover officer, Sterkel said, purchased crack from “four main subjects.”

At about 7 a.m., the SWAT team simultaneously served warrant at a home on Red Cedar Lane and an apartment on SW Kimball Street. At the Cedar Lane house, the police arrested a 23-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman on suspicion of delivery of cocaine. Sterkel said investigators seized a baggy of crack and $2,250 in cash.

At the apartment, two women — ages 23 and 25 — and a 19-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine. Sterkel said police seized “a big rock of crack.” He added that another suspect, a resident of the apartment, was not home at the time. The police are looking for him.

Sterkel said yet another suspect, a 28-year-old man, was also arrested at his Oak Harbor home on suspicion of delivery of cocaine.

At about 7:30 a.m., the police served a third search warrant at a suspected meth house on Oak Harbor Street. A 46-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of possession of meth. Sterkel said investigators found a small amount of meth at the house. Three children “living in the middle of the meth house” were taken into protective custody by Child Protective Services, Sterkel said.

According to Sterkel, the two meth suspects have links to several men arrested by the Sheriff’s Office last week for attempting to manufacture meth.

“They’re all connected,” he said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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