Drug lab bust brings two arrests

WALNUT – Two men cooking methamphetamine in a shed on County Road 120 were arrested in a pre-dawn Tuesday raid, Tippah County Sheriff’s Department authorities said. The arrests are the latest chapter in an investigation that began last September. Several drug-related arrests in Tippah and Benton counties have stemmed from the investigation. Deputies said further arrests could stem from the Tuesday morning bust, since some of the items found at the site may have been stolen. William McClain, 35, and Michael Crum, 30, are each charged with manufacturing methamphetamine. No bond had been set for either man as of late Tuesday morning. McClain will likely be held without bond, since he was on bond on a felony charge at the time of his arrest Tuesday, authorities said. The charges are enhanced – meaning the men’s sentences could be more severe – since the operation was under way near a church. Deputies said the shed was less than 100 ft. from the Brownfield Baptist Church. Tippah deputies pounced on the pair about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Tippah Narcotics Investigator Tommy Garrett said both men were living at a house near the shed. McClain’s girlfriend and baby were in the house at the time the two men were arrested. She was not charged in connection with the case. Asked to describe the men’s jobs, Sheriff Karl Gaillard said “being drug dealers and thieves is their only steady work.” Inside the recently-built shed, a cooking operation was in progress, Garrett said. He termed the operation a “red P lab,” meaning red phosphorous was being used as one of the precursors for the methamphetamine. No finished product was found at the site. The lab was a fire hazard waiting to ignite, Garrett said. With a wood stove in operation and a hotplate being used, several volatile chemicals were producing heavy fumes. A stray spark could have triggered an explosion, the deputy said. The fumes were so thick that when Garrett and County Investigator Jason Willis had to wear gas masks when went back in later to take evidence samples. One officer sustained injuries to his leg during the arrests, but there were no other injuries.

Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel