PLATTSBURGH — A batch of methamphetamine was just about ready when a Plattsburgh City Police officer walked in on the operation Tuesday.
The officer was able to secure both the apartment in the multi-family building on Eleanor Way and three suspects, said Police Chief Desmond Racicot, as, across the street, firefighters were hosing down the men behind a green tarp.
Before that happened, though, residents of the other apartments in the building and homes nearby were evacuated, due to the danger of toxic fumes, smoke and fire created by the flammable ingredients used for meth.
The men were using what is known as the “one pot” method often employed to manufacture small batches of the drug, police said.
Eleanor Way is a cul de sac located off Hamilton Street between Peru and MacDonough streets.
Numerous law enforcement agencies turned out for the bust, including the New York State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team. In special suits and respirator masks, team members worked to decontaminate the apartment and gather evidence.
The suspects were stripped of all clothing before City Fire Department personnel decontaminated them behind the tarp.
“Obviously, having a couple of meth labs in the area is a very bad thing,” Racicot said. “And finding another meth lab is the area is a very bad sign of our future.”
He said his department had been looking into a possible meth lab there and that initial effort had culminated with the officer’s timely arrival Tuesday. The investigation launched afterwards would continue long into the night; arraignment wouldn’t take place until police determined how much meth was there, which would in part determine what charges the men would face. And their names were not yet available, the chief said.
Racicot described the process of decontamination and gathering evidence as “very long” and stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of the building and residents.
Neighbors, who declined to give their names, expressed shock and disgust over the presence of a meth lab there.
ANOTHER METH LAB
A report of smoke coming from a motel room pointed the way to another meth lab earlier this month, State Police said.
Shawn L. Gushlaw, 35, was allegedly manufacturing methamphetamine at the Villa Motel at 1875 North Ausable St.
Keeseville-based State Police Trooper Darren Forgea said Gushlaw was taken into custody and charged with third-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine and tampering with physical evidence, both felonies.
Gushlaw was also charged with felony second-degree attempted assault after throwing what Forgea described in an email as a “toxic substance used in making meth” at the owner of the motel, in an attempt to destroy evidence and flee to avoid arrest.
“The motel owner was uninjured and deserves credit for his wherewithal to help prevent the destruction of evidence and the apprehension of the suspect,” the trooper said.
Jerry Soper, who said his mother, Marion Soper, actually owns the motel where he works, said he was doing a routine fire-alarm inspection that day, July 13.
“When I got to his room, I smelled a weird odor,” Mr. Soper said in a phone interview. “He told me he burnt some popcorn.
I told him to open the door, and he took the bottle and started hitting me with it.”
Mr. Soper said he managed to wrestle Gushlaw to the ground then held him to the floor until the police arrived.
Gushlaw also faces misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Also turning out for the call were the State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Team, Plattsburgh-based State Police and the State Police Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Gushlaw was arraigned in the Town of AuSable Court and sent to Clinton County Jail without bail. He is scheduled to reappear in court today.
He was previously incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where he served time in connection with a second-degree attempted robbery conviction.
The Press-Republican reported Gushlaw was arrested in 2004, charged with robbing the Stewart’s Shop on South Catherine Street in Plattsburgh on Aug. 28 that year. He showed a knife and demanded money from the cash register, police said, then fled that crime in a stolen car.
While incarcerated at Clinton Correctional, Gushlaw was again arrested, charged with possessing prison contraband, criminal solicitation, criminal possession of a controlled substance and aggravated harassment.
A woman had allegedly tried to smuggle in narcotics for him.
He was released in 2011.
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