Just 24 hours after taking office, Sheriff Mark Taylor coordinated a massive investigation into a suspected drug lab in the garage of a residence on Highway 133 in Paonia.
The initial tip was given to a patrol deputy, who passed the information to a sheriff's investigator. After diligent investigation and surveillance, sheriff's investigators were able to obtain a search warrant for the home. It was executed Tuesday, Jan. 8, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
According to a press release issued by the sheriff's office, investigators received information leading them to believe the lab in question was an active meth or MDMA (Ecstacy) lab. Both are highly dangerous and addictive drugs.
"Due to the hazardous chemicals associated with the production of these dangerous drugs, the DEA was contacted and they provided invaluable assistance," Sheriff Taylor said.
Teams of trained specialists came from California and Salt Lake City.
"We would like to thank the DEA for providing drug chemists, evidence specialists and a hazardous materials cleanup crew through the Colorado National Guard," said Sheriff Taylor. "The sheriff's office would like to thank these agencies for their support in safely removing a large quantity of toxic chemicals that pose an environmental and public safety risk from our community."
Due to the fact the search warrant was for a drug lab within 1,000 feet of Paonia Junior-Senior High School, Paonia schools were asked to shelter in place prior to the execution of the search warrant. At approximately 11:25 a.m., law enforcement closed Highway 133 for a brief period of time to ensure the safety of all personnel involved.
Upon executing the search warrant, an active drug lab was discovered inside the garage of the property. According to the press release, DEA agents and chemists said the lab was one of the largest home-based operations discovered in recent years. Investigators and cleanup crews were on-scene for over 12 hours to ensure all the toxic chemicals were safely removed from the scene.
At this time, the sheriff's office is waiting on lab results from the DEA chemists who assisted in the search to determine if the chemicals involved were for the production of methamphetamine or MDMA (ecstasy).
A suspect believed to be responsible for the lab is in custody in Michigan on other drug charges. An adult female was located at the residence as well, but her level of involvement at this time is under investigation.
"I would like to commend our investigators for an excellent job in identifying an active drug lab, and subsequent removal of dangerous chemicals and drugs from our community," Sheriff Taylor said. "The search also produced ketamine, a highly dangerous narcotic and ecstasy tablets (pictured in the accompanying photo). The Delta County Sheriff's Office takes illegal narcotics seriously and considers the seizure of these drugs and dismantling of a drug lab to be a major win in the fight against drugs in Delta County."