02/18/10 — Sheriff's Office SWAT conducts meth lab raid

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Sheriff's Office SWAT conducts meth lab raid

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 18, 2010 1:46 PM

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Members of the Wayne County SWAT team stand guard during a meth lab bust in Seven Springs Wednesday. The officers cannot be identified for security reasons.

SEVEN SPRINGS -- A Seven Springs man faces a meth manufacturing charge after the Wayne County SWAT Team raided his home on Wednesday afternoon.

Around 3:40 p.m., the Special Weapons And Tactics team rolled into the driveway of 1968 Pineview Cemetery Road, owned by George Nelson Tripp, 51.

Tripp was still in jail as of this morning under a $225,000 bond, Wayne County Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Effler said, on a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine.

Members of the special team and other narcotics detectives and operatives quickly descended on the scene after pulling into the driveway, and had three suspects secured within minutes.

Two Jones County men who were at the residence were released from the scene and not charged, authorities said.

Officers moved quickly to ventilate the suspected meth lab, as one officer smashed a window on a large metal storage shed near the home.

That was intended to provide quick ventilation to what officers believed was either a meth lab or an operation to produce a chemical used in illicit production.

Another officer took a heavy tool to forcefully remove a lock on a smaller shed, immediately behind what officers said was an active meth operation.

A pack of at least eight dogs and puppies immediately appeared from the backyard, under the porch and other areas throughout the property.

None of the dogs barked loudly or growled at the officers, quickly retreating to other areas about the property after investigating.

Cpl. Chris Peedin is the resident expert on methamphetamine cooking operations for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

The detective said he had been working the investigation since April, after a multitude of complaints about the property.

"Information says he's been cooking meth for a long time, and he's just been kind of difficult to (arrest)," Peedin said. "I hope the citizens of Seven Springs are happy, because a lot of people were complaining about this individual here."

The corporal said the SWAT team was deployed because the Sheriff's Office had received credible information about Tripp allegedly experimenting with pipe bombs or other such improvised explosive devices.

Officers did not find any evidence of explosives on the property.

While the officers awaited members of the State Bureau of Investigation's special methamphetamine cleanup team, the man's son pulled into the driveway.

"I'm just here to find out what's going on," the man said. "My daddy lives here."

Peedin did not mince words.

"We've got a meth lab, or what appears to be a meth lab, right here, so the SBI's on the way to clean it up," Peedin said.

Peedin asked Tripp if he could turn over responsibility for the property to his son, and the suspect agreed.

"Whatever he wants," Tripp said.

After the scene was secured, Detective Sgt. Matt Miller and Peedin walked over to the suspected lab.

Miller explained that authorities had to wait for state investigators to arrive before investigating further.

"Well, we can't go in there and break down exactly what we think it is until the SBI gets here," Miller said. "It looks like some fertilizer connected to some tubes, so they're either making meth or making 'juice.'"

The sergeant explained that "making juice" was street slang for production of an illicit chemical used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Officers also located a "burn pile" where they suspected Tripp disposed of evidence of meth production. Leading up to the fire pit were trails of white powder that Peedin suspected was hydrochloric acid.

Just beyond the allegedly active lab, large mounds of chicken manure were piled up, and a fenced-in cemetery was in view behind the mounds.

Peedin said that officers had used the cemetery to watch the property on Wednesday night.

"Me and another deputy were sitting back there, and the wind blew just right, and you could smell a strong scent of ammonia," Peedin said.