Local News

Authorities Bust Major Designer Drug Operation

Posted May 5, 1999

— Raleigh policebelieve they have busted up a major designer drug lab. Officers say an explosion tipped them off, and with chemicals as volatile as they found, authorities say everyone in the area is lucky the blast was not worse.

The all clear sign was given about 9 p.m. Thursday. Earlier in the day, the apartment building on the corner of Morgan and Snow Streets was teaming with local and federal agents, who dismantled what they describe as a clandestine drug lab.

"It's crazy, I mean it's a quiet neighborhood," says neighbor Wayne Oakes.

An observation that belies the mountain of chemical drug evidence that came out of a second floor apartment. Tests of chemicals found inside showed the pre-cursors to MDMA, or Ecstasy.

The use and sale of Ecstasy is nothing new in the Triangle, but clandestine drug labs are.

"Inevitably, someone comes up with the idea of taking out the middle man, and manufacturing the drugs themselves, and they're going to do that," says Pat Shea with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The people who run the home drug labs are called "cookers." They usually do not have any training in chemistry, but they are handling highly toxic and volatile chemicals.

"That's where the problem comes in because you have people mixing this who don't know what they're doing," Shea said. "It presents a tremendously dangerous situation."

Experts say one out of five drug labs gets busted the same way the Raleigh one did -- when they blow up.

Neighbors say the first sign of trouble in the apartment happened this weekend when a small, but powerful explosion rocked the building. Timothy White lives upstairs.

"It shook the whole building, even my bed," he said. "I'm not exaggerating, my bed went up and came back down."

The thought of an alleged designer drug operation in the apartment hit neighbors like a ton of bricks.

"You've got State students, older people living here, a lot of business people from downtown live here," Oakes said. "I've never heard about this before."

Authorities have not issued a warrant for the person living in the apartment.

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