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An Elizabethtown man discovered sleeping outside a Columbus convenience store Wednesday morning is facing felony drug charges after items used to manufacture methamphetamine were seized from his truck.
Kevin Wang, 45, of 7535 North County Road 900W, becomes the 42nd person this year to be arrested by Columbus Police on methamphetamine-related charges. That averages four meth-related arrests every three weeks, slightly ahead of the city’s 52-week average from 2012.
Wang is expected to face enhanced penalties since the drug items were discovered just one block south of St. Peter’s Lutheran School.
Columbus Police said Wang was arrested on five counts, three of them felonies:
At 8:51 a.m. Wednesday, a customer called police to report a disturbance outside Jack’s Place/Phillips 66, 910 Third St., Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said. When Officer Julie Quesenbery arrived at the store near Third and California streets, she found Wang asleep in his older-model red Chevrolet pickup.
When the disoriented Wang refused to show Quesenbery his hands, the officer pulled him away from the truck to search him and found a drug pipe and a small amount of marijuana in Wang’s pockets, Myers said.
When narcotics and other officers arrived, Wang was taken into custody before a search of the truck turned up items used in manufacturing methamphetamine, as well as the drug itself, Myers said.
The ongoing investigation could result in additional charges, he said.
Wang, who was released from parole obligations late last November after serving a year-and-a-half in transitional programs, has been convicted of drug felonies three times in two south-central Indiana counties during the past 11 years, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.
Wang twice has received two-year prison terms for possession of marijuana, hash and hash oil. The most recent was in Jackson County in February 2010, while an almost-identical conviction was handed down by a Bartholomew County judge in June 2002. Wang’s most serious conviction to date was a six-year prison term from Jackson County for dealing in cocaine in November 2002.
The office of Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash will determine what, if any, charges are filed against Wang.
On the same day as Wang’s arrest, a Columbus man was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to a Class B felony charge of possession of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school.
Jason M. Grider, 32, of 2541 Pearl St., Columbus, was sentenced by Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann, who suspended three years of the man’s sentence.
Grider was ordered to pay $1,547 as restitution to the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression section. He also will have to pay $368 in court costs and undergo substance-abuse evaluation.
Heimann said Grider’s criminal history includes six felony convictions, and he was on probation at the time of his latest offense.
“The defendant has been offered treatment previously at least 10 times,” the judge’s sentencing order said. “The defendant has violated conditions of his probation at least 12 times.”
“Once meth burrows into the community, it’s very invasive in the way it grabs an individual and their family,” said Linda Grove-Paul, vice president for recovery and innovation for Centerstone Behavioral Health Center. “As the drug gets hold of a person, it literally hijacks the brain for a number of years.”
Grove-Paul is one of many area leaders calling for a community-wide response to the meth problem that goes beyond the judicial system to include better treatment options and education.
Reporter Randy McClain contributed to this story.
How to spot a meth lab
A house or structure containing a methamphetamine lab often will display telltale signs of production. Some of these signs also concern the behavior of occupants.
Unusual odors: Making meth produces powerful odors that may smell like ammonia or ether.
Covered windows: Blackening or covering windows to prevent outsiders from seeing in.
Strange ventilation: To rid buildings of toxic fumes produced during the meth-making process. Occupants may open windows on cold days or at other seemingly odd times.
Elaborate security: “Keep Out” signs, guard dogs, video cameras or baby monitors placed outside to warn of people approaching the premises.
Dead vegetation: Meth makers sometimes dump toxic substances in their yards, leaving burn pits, “dead spots” in the grass or vegetation, or other evidence of chemical dumping.
Excessive or unusual trash: Meth makers produce large quantities of unusual waste that may contain packaging from cold tablets; lithium batteries that have been torn apart; used coffee filters with colored stains or powdery residue; empty containers of antifreeze, white gas, ether, starting fluids, Freon or other chemicals; plastic beverage bottles with holes near the top, often with tubes coming out of the holes; plastic or rubber hoses, duct tape, rubber gloves or respiratory masks.
Paranoid: They may monitor passing cars, show great suspicion toward strangers and construct elaborate security systems around their homes.
Staying inside: Residents may remain inside their homes for extended periods of time.
Smoking outside: To avoid igniting a fire or explosion when matches, lighters or cigarettes come into contact with highly combustible chemicals and fumes.
Frequent visitors: A large number of visitors, especially at night. These visitors may be bringing supplies, taking away meth, using meth or hanging out.
Mobile garbage: To avoid detection, they may burn their trash, place it in the trash collection area of another house or building, or cart it away and dump it.
What to do
Stay calm: Keep your distance and never take matters into your own hands.
Protect yourself: Do not approach the structure or confront its occupants. Both meth labs and meth users are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.
Protect others: Alert any innocent bystanders who may be in imminent danger, such as children playing in the front yard of a home.
Alert law enforcement: Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center, 379-1689; Columbus Police Department, 376-2600; Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, 379-1650.
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