County, state sees labs on rise with new cooking method
Two men are in custody after a Tuesday, March 15 meth raid in Stallings. Acting off a tip, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Stallings Police uncovered a meth lab at 4701 Stevens Mill Road on Tuesday, marking the fifth such lab shut down this year in Union.
“Number five in Union County this year, that’s a little scary,” Union County Chief Deputy Ben Bailey said.
An SBI clean up team was brought in to take care of the lab itself, which was allegedly being operated out of a shed on the property. They coordinated with the Stallings Fire Department and Monroe Fire Department’s Hazmat Team.
Authorities arrested two suspects found at the alleged lab; Walter Anthony Sowards, who lived at the residence and Indian Trail resident Rodger Christopher Oxendine. Both face charges of possession of methamphetamine, manufacturing meth, possession of precursors to manufacture and possession of drug paraphernalia. According to Stallings police records, they have a scheduled May 4 court date. Oxedine is in jail under a $100,000 secured bond, while Sowards has a $150,000 bond.
“It was a significant operation,” Bailey said. “These guys were prepared to produce a lot of meth. It’s unusual to see that degree of material compared to normal.”
After a search warrant was obtained for the home, officers found three shotguns, ammunition and controlled substances. Additionally, two children lived at the home and both were placed in protective custody.
In a press release, Stallings Police thanked all the agencies who worked on the bust, saying it was a joint effort.
“The Stallings Police Department would like to thank the Union County Sheriffs Office for working with us and combining our resources to remove this dangerous meth lab from our community,” Stallings Chief Michael Dummett said in the release. “We would also like to thank the SBI, Monroe Fire Department and the Stallings Fire Department for their assistance which was pivotal to the success of this operation.”
State officials estimate 80 meth labs have been shut down so far throughout North Carolina this year, as a new method of cooking makes it easier to operate.
“It’s called one pot or shake and bake,” Bailey said. “It removes the necessity for expensive lab equipment, so you’ve got people now operating these things out of their sheds.”
The ‘shake and bake’ method means that cooks can make meth in one sealed container, which is then flipped upside down to cause the reaction needed to turn the ingredients into meth. While this method generally produces meth in smaller quantities rather than one large batch, North Carolina drug enforcement officials say, it’s no less dangerous.
Using the new method, anything from a Coleman fuel can to a soda bottle can be used as a container, according to information from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s regional bureau. The chemical reaction causes a high amount of pressure to build inside after being shaken, making the mixture even more volatile than usual.