Archive for Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Meth lab discovered in vehicle

July 2, 2002

A Tonganoxie police officer was overcome by fumes and heat Thursday night after he apparently opened a jar of chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Officer George Kibler, 60, Basehor, was searching a van in the 200 block of North Village when the incident occurred, according to police Sgt. John Putthoff.

"Inside the van, he found a container with brown liquid," Putthoff said. "He caught wind of it."

Kibler, a part-time officer, was treated and released from St. John Hospital in Leavenworth.

Putthoff and Major Dave Zoellner, who is Leavenworth County undersheriff, related the following details about the incident.

About 7 p.m. Thursday, a sheriff's officer arrested Lawrence A. Shaw, 51, Eudora, outside a home on Village Street on a federal warrant charging him with three counts in connection with manufacture of methamphetamine.

Shaw was taken to the Leavenworth County Jail. While there, he asked sheriff's officers to have someone lock his work van, which was parked at the Tonganoxie residence. So sheriff's officers asked Tonganoxie police to handle that.

In the meantime, Shaw's employer arrived, and he asked police if he could take the van. But the employer also said he didn't want the van, if something illegal was in it. So police asked sheriff's officers if they could search the van.

And that's when Kibler discovered what apparently were the makings of a methamphetamine lab. After he opened the jar, he had difficulty breathing.

Putthoff, who said he believes some of Kibler's problem also were heat-related, said the incident underscores the importance of knowing how to handle suspected methamphetamine labs. Members of the public should never handle anything that looks like it could be used in making meth, Putthoff said.

And he said officers are trained to back away from suspected labs and call the Kansas Bureau of Investigation or the sheriff's department, both of which have the ability to safely handle the chemicals used in meth manufacture.

"That stuff can be very volatile," Putthoff said. "Sometimes you get in there and you're exposed before you realize it."

It's likely Tonganoxie police will have a refresher course on protocols for handling methamphetamine labs.

After Kibler was taken to the hospital, agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and sheriff's officers took over. A company that cleans up meth labs also was called in, Zoellner said.

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