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Meth lab’s fumes yield five arrests

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Apparently five people charged with making “shake and bake” meth in a unit of a second floor duplex in Sumner were so overcome by the fumes of the chemical process they did not hear officers were knocking on their front door. 

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But when the officers could not get the attention of the people inside the unit, the next door neighbor helped out deputies and officers by kicking down the adjoining door between the units, according to Levy County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Scott Tummond.

Tummond said the neighbor on Southwest 123rd Terrace became concerned when “very pungent, heavy chemical smells were coming from the apartment next door.”

Tummond said, “When a Cedar Key officer arrived he encounterd this same pungent, overpowering smell and he backs out and requests the (Levy County) Drug Task Force come out.”

When the deputies and officers arrive they can hear and see people inside and knock and announce themselves for about 20 minutes with no response. “ They can hear them. They can see them. They can smell the strong chemical smells. And it sounds like a person is choking and gagging. They start to believe people inside are overcome by chemicals,” Tummond said. “Basically they had people hacking up their lungs in there.”

At that point the neighbor helps officers by opening the adjoining door in his unit and kicking in the other adjoining door. 

“The officers go in and check the safety and welfare of the people inside.”

Tummond said a curtain was open several inches and an occupant came up and closed the blinds while law enforcement was knocking. 

“All were pretty well hammered from what I understand,” Tummond said.

While the operation started Tuesday night, it lasted well into Wednesday as officers had to clean up the toxic and explosive brew of chemicals from the apartment.

Tummond said the methamphetamine was not being cooked in a kitchen the way it has been in the past. “Now everything is a one-bottle adventure. They call it ‘shake and bake’ or something along that line.”

He said residents can forget the mental picture of bottles, beakers and cooking it over flames. Think more like a left over 2-liter soda pop bottle. 

And the chemicals are easy to get in this new method. “This is stuff they’re getting from pharmacies and local grocery stores,” he said.  “When you start mixing these compounds together you are dealing with a volatile mixture.”

According to various websites the one-bottle method manufactures less meth than the traditional big lab, but the stuff to make it can fit into a backpack and the ease with which it is made and the need to avoid having the resulting odor has made making it in a vehicle common practice.

But it also leaves a danger behind for communities. When the meth is extracted, the bottles, which contain a hazardous brown and white liquid — like a lighter sludge under “dirty” water — are simply tossed outside the vehicle.  

People who find plastic bottles with an unknown brown substance (and no one is talking about cola), they are asked to avoid it and notify law enforcement.