Suspected mobile meth lab behind bomb scare that shut down street in Collier

— After a routine traffic stop escalated a car chase Wednesday, Collier County deputies learned they may have something even more dangerous on their hands — a fuel spill and possible mobile methamphetamine lab.

“In a car, the biggest thing is that so many of the chemicals they use are of toxic nature,” said Lt. Nelson Shadrick, with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Bureau. “They can create fire and they can explode. If you did have a full involved mobile meth lab and get into a wreck, you also have the possibility of fire and explosions.”

According to Collier County Sheriff’s reports, deputies spotted a 1994 white Dodge pick-up truck leaving a gas station near the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and Whippoorwill Lane. A routine check on the truck’s tag revealed no vehicle information

Deputies then saw the truck run two stop signs as it made its way westbound onto Pine Ridge Road, reports said.

When deputies tried to conduct a traffic stop, the pick-up truck appeared to comply by pulling to the side of the road, but instead of stopping the driver — later identified as Gerald Smith, 45 — made a U-turn across Pine Ridge Road and headed east.

Reports said deputies saw a female passenger, later identified as Kaley Herpin, 21, throwing several items out of the front passenger window.

Collier Sheriff’s officials said deputies where able to force the truck to stop, which ended the chase in the 3700 block of White Boulevard.

At that point, reports said a male passenger — later identified as Mark Raymond Wagner, 32 — tried to make a run for it.

The three were quickly taken into custody.

A search of the Dodge found Oxycodone, a camouflage backpack with a small digital scale and a yellow 6-volt flashlight. Inside the flashlight deputies found crystal meth and a gold colored metal knitting needle. In addition, deputies also found a purple make-up bag with rolling papers and four syringes. Deputies also found an elephant-shaped pipe with marijuana residue.

But it was a purple duffle bag found on the truck bed that caused alarm.

Deputies located materials used in the production of methamphetamines, including acetone.

“Most of these substances by themselves are not dangerous,” Shadrick said adding that the ingredients to make crystal meth — such as rubbing alcohol, sulfuric acid, cleaning fluids, Coleman fuel, alkaline batteries and ephedrine — are easily accessible household items.

It’s when they start getting mixed that things can take a turn for the worst.

Sheriff’s office personnel cleared the area, reports said and firefighters, Haz-Mat and the Bomb squad were called to the scene.

Shadrick said the team concluded that the vehicle was not a mobile crystal meth lab.

Smith, of the 300 block of Highway 557A, Polk City, was charged with fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer and felony driving while license suspended. Smith also had an outstanding warrant out of Highlands county.

Herpin, of the 300 block of Hemlock Avenue, Sebring, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of cocaine, possession of a controlled substance, possession of narcotics paraphernalia and tampering with evidence. Herpin also had an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

Wagner, of the 1000 block of Dinner Lake Drive, Sebring, was charged with resisting arrest without violence and carrying a concealed weapon.

As of Thursday afternoon, all three remained in jail. Smith’s bond was set at $30,500, Herpin’s bond was set at $11,000 and Wagner’s bond was set at $4,000.

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