WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- One of the largest active Methamphetamine labs in County history was discovered Wednesday evening when Walla Walla SWAT served a drug warrant at the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn, 325 E. Main Street.
The raid took place at about 6:00 p.m. after the City Drug Unit developed probable cause that a meth lab was inside one of the rooms. As the team forced entry through the front door, the suspect, Clifford E. Chew, 56, attempted to escape through the back door of the motel room, but police did catch up to him.
Lab certified law enforcement officers were able to secure and disassemble the apparatus without incident and transported it to a secure location. Finished product and many other items used in the manufacturing and distribution of Methamphetamine were seized from the room.
The SWAT Team was supported by Sheriff's Deputies, City Patrol Officers and the City's Special Teams Unit.
The number of Meth labs in Washington State has dropped dramatically over the past few years with much of the Methamphetamine coming into the country through Mexico.
Chew, a career criminal with over 35 felony arrests and convictions for Attempted Murder, Assault 1st, Burglary, and numerous drug violations, was lodged at the Walla Walla County Jail on charges of Manufacturing Methamphetamine, and numerous other felony drug related charges. Chew also has an Absconding warrant out of Umatilla County, Oregon that was not extraditable. He is currently on Umatilla County's Most Wanted list.
Also arrested at the scene was the motel manager, Dena R. Turner, 37, after a large quantity of Ammonia was discovered in her freezer. This is a common precursor in the manufacturing of Meth. She was lodged in jail for 1 count of Complicity to Manufacture Methamphetamine, a class B felony.
"We know that the subject that was arrested, Mr. Chew had a pass key that would get him into any of the rooms in the motel. So he had access to several different rooms," says Officer Tim Bennett, with Walla Walla Police. Bennett says the length of Chew's stay was not recorded in the motel's records.
The motel is run by BHG Management out of Wilsonville, Oregon.
Contamination levels at the motel are unknown at this time. It is also unknown how long Chew had been cooking Meth at this location.
"The county health department has posted that the room is contaminated, and unsafe to enter. it will remain that way until a cleaning company can come in and test the surfaces, the floors, ceiling and walls, and find out for sure the level of contamination," says Bennett.
The special cleaning company out of Spokane will come down to evaluate the levels and they'll base their cleanup on what they find. Bennett says the cost can range anywhere from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
One SWAT Team member sustained an injured knee during the raid.