Mountain View Voice

News - November 16, 2012

Six arrested in raid on drug lab

Bust uncovers DMT manufacturing operation, heroin, meth, guns and a piranha

by Nick Veronin

A total of six people have been arrested in connection to last week's massive drug bust in Mountain View, which uncovered various drugs, a small cache of firearms, a lab for manufacturing a powerful hallucinogen, and even an illegal fish.

Three men and one woman arrested on Nov. 8, the day of the raid, and two more men were arrested the next day.

Around noon on Nov. 8, the MVPD's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team descended upon four units in two apartment buildings in 200 block of Bush Street, near the corner of Bush and Villa streets, according to Sgt. Sean Thompson, public information officer for the Mountain View police. The local police received help from the California Department of Justice, the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team, as well as officers from the Los Altos and Sunnyvale police departments.

Two people were arrested on the spot, and three were detained that day. By day's end, David Strang, Jerrod Kensil, Guadalupe Villador and Richard Rosen under arrest. Owen Johnston and Thomas Lear were arrested the following day. All of them lived in the apartment complex.

Johnston, 31, is charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, possession for sale of a controlled substance, possession of an assault weapon and possession of a piranha (which is illegal); Kensil, 29, was charged with possession of a controlled substance; Lear, 39, was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance; Rosen, 32, was charged with manufacturing and possession for sale of a controlled substance, and possession of a piranha; Strang, 40, was charged with possession of LSD; and Villador, 42, was charged with manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Thompson said more charges may be pending, but no other arrests are expected.

During the raid, police found a DMT manufacturing laboratory, and a number of other illegal drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD and heroin, police said.

Investigators also found a small cache of weapons, including two shotguns, several semi-automatic firearms and a fully automatic AR-15 assault rifle. Sgt. Dan Vicencio said it was not immediately clear if the weapons had been obtained legally or not. He said it was possible that even the AR-15 could have been owned legally. Although it is now illegal to buy or obtain fully automatic weapons in California, those who owned such weapons prior to the ban may still legally possess them.

The DMT lab was the focus of the raid, Thompson said, and the total number of doses of DMT discovered greatly outnumbered that of the other drugs found during the raid. Police discovered the lab over the course of a lengthy investigation, which involved the use of undercover officers and other intelligence-gathering methods.

DMT, short for Dimethyltryptamine, is a hallucinogen — the same class of drug as LSD or "magic mushrooms" — according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

DMT produces "intense effects" in the user but does not last as long as other hallucinogens, such as LSD, according to the DMT page on the DEA's website.

"A very small amount is very powerful," Vicencio said. "Even a gram of DMT can be used many times over and affect a lot of people."

Both Vicencio and Thompson said the drug is not commonly encountered by law enforcement officials and that DMT manufacturing operations are also rare.

Though the drug may not be popular among recreational drug users in the U.S., the DEA notes it has a long history of human use and is associated with a number of religious practices and rituals. "As a naturally occurring substance in many species of plants, DMT is present in a number of South American snuffs and brewed concoctions, like Ayahuasca." It can also be synthesized in a laboratory.

Vicencio said that DMT-containing plant materials were found in the apartment, along with other flammable fluids and hazardous materials investigators believe were being used to distill the chemical into a more pure form for distribution and use.

A man who lives near the apartment that was raided said he was "surprised" to learn of the drug lab. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he did see a lot of people come and go from the apartment and that they sometimes threw loud parties, but he never smelled anything or saw any indication that drugs were being manufactured there.

He never felt like he was in danger, he said. "Everyone always thinks of, like, violent drug-related stuff, but we never had any instances like that here."

The one thing he said he was concerned about was that the people were working with volatile chemical mixtures so close to his home. However, unlike a methamphetamine laboratory, Thompson said, the risk of explosions is much lower with the manufacture of DMT. Nonetheless, some of the investigators wore full-body protective suits.

The man said he felt the police conducted themselves well during the investigation — letting him know to leave the area shortly before they began the raid and allowing him back into his home when it was all finished.

"You don't want that kind of thing in your neighborhood," he said.

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