An Opinion by Deborah Lavery Powers
Some of us have been sheltered from exposure to illegal drug abuse. Some of us have not. But all of us know by now that we had a drug bust of the “meth lab” variety in our city a couple weeks ago. Right on Atlantic Avenue in the middle of a lovely residential area. At rush hour.
Some believe there were children in the house when the raid occurred. Not so. Some believe stun grenades were used in the raid. Not so. Some believe our City Police and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) personnel unnecessarily destroyed property to gain access to the house. Not so.
However, our City Police officers and DEA deputies did go overboard in a couple of important ways when working that methamphetamine (meth) lab bust.
I believe they went overboard to protect the children and make sure they were not on the property during the raid. Detectives who were on site assured me that both children were confirmed to be elsewhere before the bust took place. Additionally, an officer surveilling the property was prepared to lead them away if either one, for any reason, arrived home unexpectedly.
I also believe officers went overboard to be sure that only safe pieces of equipment were used when rushing the property. Stun grenades are not safe to use in such a situation so they were not employed.
Stun grenades create a deafening bang and a bright flash of light that disorients those within its radius — giving agents and police, in protective gear, precious extra seconds to enter a room/area to neutralize any threats. But…the pyrotechnics in stun grenades have the potential to ignite the flammable vapors and chemicals in a meth lab — which could result in possible maiming or death. So they weren’t used. Neither were smoke grenades — even though a special variety of smoke grenades are sometimes used by nearby jurisdictions because they don’t have the potential of igniting chemicals.
To bring the above into focus and see the damage that can be caused when a single Gatorade bottle containing Meth is knocked over, view YouTube video below. That video shows just one Gatorade bottle being toppled over. Detectives on the scene of our recent raid reported finding over 30 bottles! Two of them already filled. According to the detectives, the product in those bottles looked sorta’ like washing powder, with little blue specks in it.
Because time was of the essence, police officers did rush into the residence — in a predetermined, swift and decisive manner — but only after detectives determined that one of the suspects, Mr. Lannon, wasn’t going to come out of the house voluntarily, as requested. Ms. Gainey, the other suspect, did come out.
Officers did not go overboard in causing the window and door damage to the house. At least that’s my opinion! One of the first actions taken in every meth raid is to dissipate the meth fumes by “venting” all visible entry points to the property being raided. Detectives said the windows at the Atlantic Avenue residence could not be raised manually from the outside, so they were broken in or “raked” as it is called. But it is important to know that the damage done to the windows and doors was really a minor part of the overall picture. This particular lab bust was considered, by law enforcement, to be a high risk operation. Most meth addicts are considered to be extremely paranoid. Detectives felt a potentially dangerous situation was at hand and the safety of the occupants and law enforcement personnel had to far outweigh concerns about broken windows or doors.
Of note is the fact the suspects were hosed down as soon as they were removed from the residence, and then, before they got into law enforcement vehicles, they were outfitted in police-provided jumpsuits.
Detectives told me that another part of the “whole picture” is the fact that all 7 of the team that entered the house were hand-picked, specially trained meth certified officers. Someone asked, without knowing this bit of information, if the team even knew what they were doing — or what they were potentially getting into — when they went into the building. They certainly did.
Detectives explained that methamphetamine wasn’t a major drug issue in Northern Florida until a couple years ago — but now the problem has come to us — and to almost every other community in the nation. The following link offers “a sobering depiction of REAL individuals who’ve fallen victim to the temptation” of methamphetamine. The “devastating effects are all too apparent.”
The pictures in the above link graphically depict the fast changing physical condition of anyone addicted to Meth. The pictures are posted in an ad for a treatment center dedicated to crystal methamphetamine recovery. According to detectives, Henry Lannon and Kama Gainey were not known to be crystal meth users. Their alleged drug of choice was the injected form of meth that is manufactured in “one pots.”
Detectives told me that a meth user has reached the highest level of addiction by the time he/she starts injecting meth.
I wonder if Mr. Lannon’s life wasn’t saved by his being arrested for his alleged meth “cooking.” The detectives told me how, in other instances, they have been amazed when they have visited prisoners they earlier arrested. After three or four months in jail, the men/women no longer looked like visions of the pictures seen in the above link. They had gained some 30-40 pounds, looked healthy — and were quick to thank the officers for saving their lives.
Editor’s Note: After a career in adult education, where writing, course design and development were her “beat”, Deborah now enjoys the world of freelancing, and volunteering. Deborah covers the police beat for the Fernandina Observer writing weekly “Police blotter blasts . . .” We thank Deborah for her many contributions.
April 23, 2013 1:00 a.m.