A methamphetamine lab found in a detached garage at a Kennewick home is the first meth lab bust in the Tri-Cities for at least two years, officials said.
The red phosphorous meth lab discovery surprised investigators and may be a sign that clandestine labs to create the highly addictive drug are experiencing a comeback, they said.
Not only is finding a meth lab these days unusual, a red phosphorous one is even rarer, said Kennewick police Detective Rick Runge. In the past, two or three red phosphorus meth labs were found in the Tri-Cities, with a majority of the meth makers using anhydrous ammonia, he said.
Kennewick police discovered the most recent meth lab at 539 N. Irving St. on Thursday, a day after the Tri-City Regional SWAT team arrested the 35-year-old who lives there.
Alfred Allen Turcotte was jailed after allegedly pointing a gun at a man walking down the street Tuesday night.
The victim, Martin Zambrano Jr., 40, told officers he was in the 4100 block of West Albany Avenue walking toward his home when Turcotte walked up, pointed a gun at him and said, Why are you trippin'? police said.
Turcotte then walked away, got in his car and left. He was identified by the license plate on his car.
Detective Bill Dramis said the case still is under investigation, but police so far have determined that Turcotte and Zambrano do not seem to have a direct connection.
He said Turcotte may have been under the influence of meth at the time and could have been experiencing meth-induced paranoia.
Subsequently, investigators learned there might be a meth lab in the detached garage, and the Benton County Regional Clandestine Laboratory Team and the Kennewick Fire Department were called out Thursday to help collect evidence, Runge said.
Runge said they found evidence that a meth lab had been operating, but are not sure how long it had been up. He also said the suspects had directions about how to make meth, had taken steps to make it and most probably succeeded.
Turcotte, who was being held on suspicion of first-degree assault and unlawful possession of a gun, now faces an additional charge of manufacturing meth, police said.
Runge said he keeps an eye on the logs stores are required to keep on people buying certain cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for meth.
In this case, investigators have been able to link different pseudoephedrine purchases back to the Irving Street address and are expecting to make more arrests, he said.
Meth labs used to be a big problem in the area and across the state -- the Tri-Cities once ranked fourth in the state for having the most meth lab seizures -- but the laws restricting how much pseudoephedrine could be purchased and requiring people to show ID's helped stop the manufacturing.
Mexico then became a primary source of meth in the region, but Runge said problems down south affecting the amount of meth being imported could lead to a resurgence of local meth labs.
Meth labs also could be making a comeback as people who have been locked away complete their sentences, get out and start making meth again, said Benton County sheriff's Capt. Steve Keane.
Runge is one of two Kennewick officers still certified to dismantle meth labs, and Keane said the sheriff's office has maintained certifications for deputies on the meth abatement team.
You never know when you're going to come across one, Keane said. We have to have guys specially trained with the right equipment.
TRI-CITY HERALD, KENNEWICK, WASH. | PAULA HORTON | Sat, May 22