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Hot tip from Tilton puts Franklin meth lab out of business



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This apartment building on the corner of Central and West Bow Streets in Franklin was the scene of an explosion as law enforcement from several agencies descended on a methamphetamine lab in one of the residences on a tip from the Tilton Police. An explosion of the volatile chemicals inside has now created a Haz-Mat scene and displaced all of the other residents of the building. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2010
FRANKLIN/TILTON — An April 6 raid on a methamphetamine lab in Franklin the result of a tip from the Tilton Police Department ended in an explosive fire that displaced all the building's residents.

The raid and resulting explosion brought officers from Franklin and Tilton, the Merrimack County Sheriff's department, the New Hampshire Drug Enforcement Agency, the State Fire Marshall's office and the N.H. State Police Bomb Squad to the scene at the corner of Central and West Bow streets.

Chief Robert Cormier of Tilton credited the detectives from his department for working with confidential informants, resulting in the latest tip that he passed on to the Franklin Police.

"We work awesome together and I think Dave (Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein) and I are on the same page," Cormier said.

The raid was a worrisome one, Cormier said. "Meth," as it is known, is a highly explosive cocktail of chemicals and other commonly found ingredients. The proximity of the lab to Franklin High School was a grave concern, as were the unsuspecting residents and children in the apartment building.

Cormier said handling such a raid takes a lot of resources. A Clan (Clandestine) Lab Team from Boston came in to handle the initial entry. The first men in, Cormier said, were equipped with a respirator, special suit and air monitor. They found one of the suspects, Jeremy Clough, carrying a basket of the chemicals when they entered. The fumes, Cormier said, just hit the first man in the face "so hard" and an explosion resulted soon after.

Meth is a highly addictive drug. Ingredients can include Coleman fuel, lithium from batteries, pseudoephedrine, sodium chloride, Freon and sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. Signs of a meth lab can be as evident as simply smelling the strange odors that emanate when the "cocktail" is mixed. Garbage is another clue, the chief said. Empty coke bottles with the labels pealed off, 50 gallon drums with hoses protruding, and an excess of green Coleman fuel canisters are a tip-off. Fans in windows blowing air out of the house is another sign, as they try to fumigate the chemicals from a room. Users of meth are also likely to show signs of usage with rapid hair and weight loss, a sickly pallor and eventual loss of teeth.

"In my lifetime I'd have to say this is the scariest drug. Dealers sell it as a great high, but it's got a greater addiction rate than even heroine," Cormier said.

Cormier has been very involved in narcotics investigations over his career. His experience began in Los Angeles where he was an undercover detective for the Vice Squad's narcotics division. As a police officer in Plymouth he also participated in some meth lab raids in 2005, when New Hampshire lead New England with the number of labs found. Finding drug dealers and arresting them before they can get to the children in the area is important to him in his job as police chief.

"Our detectives here in Tilton have been doing an awesome job with developing good (confidential informants) and that is what brought this latest tip in," said Cormier.

He has heard on the street that drug dealers are trying to avoid Tilton now, preferring to meet with buyers in other towns, due to the no tolerance stance of the Tilton Police Department.

In the meantime, Cormier said he feels terrible for the other residents of the building in Franklin. The chemical cloud contaminated much of what was in the building when the explosion occurred.

"They lost almost everything. That place is now a Haz-Mat site, as per the Federal Government. The chemicals were so strong that they even turned our boots from black to white just from being exposed to them."

The officers who participated in the raid where glad, however, that while possessions may have been lost, everyone was okay in a situation that might have been much worse.

Anyone suspecting that such an operation is going on in a residence is encouraged to contact their local police as soon as possible and should not approach the homeowner.

"It does happen here, too. I think this was a wake-up call for everybody," Cormier said.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
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Martin Lord Osman
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