Officers bust Lincoln County meth lab by arriving in borrowed church bus
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Law enforcement officers surprised operators of a methamphetamine lab in Lincoln County by descending upon the area in a borrowed church bus.
"I orchestrated the whole thing," said J.J. Napier, chief deputy for the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. "Sometimes you have to be smarter than they are. This time it worked. It keeps them thinking."
The drug bust took place about 6 p.m. last Thursday when three people were arrested.
Napier said for about a month that officers had received tips about drug activity on Little Harts Road, located two miles off Route 10 in Harts.
"We have a tips line," Napier said. "We had numerous tips on our tips line about a meth lab on Little Harts Road. They had lookouts. When we went in cruisers they knew we were coming."
Then Napier came up with the idea of borrowing a church bus from Chris Wilkinson, chief of police for the Hamlin Police Department, mayor of Hamlin, and pastor of Morning Star Church, a nondenominational church located near Hamlin.
"They called and asked if they could use the bus," said Wilkinson, who has served as pastor of the church for 10 years. "Being in the police business, I am willing to help fight crime any way I can."
He said the bus has the name of the church on the side and can accommodate 12 passengers.
"He let us use the bus," Napier said. "We needed extra help."
Nine law enforcement officers aboard the bus represented the state police, Hamlin Police Department and Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.
"We unloaded and secured the scene," Napier said. "There were two active meth labs."
The arrests were made without incident.
"It was too shocking once we rolled off the bus and started putting everyone in handcuffs," Napier said.
Once backup arrived, an estimated 16 law enforcement officers were on the scene.
Three people were arrested and taken to Western Regional Jail.
Jerry Maynard, 39, was charged with operating a clandestine meth lab. Mark Vance was charged with having precursors for cooking meth.
Jeremy Collins was arrested on trespassing charges linked to a previous warrant for causing problems at a local convenience store. Officers could not find sufficient evidence to connect him with the drug activities.
Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at email@example.com or 304-348-1246.