Police bust hash-oil lab in building owned by Puyallup deputy mayor
PUYALLUP -- Federal, state and local investigators spent much of Wednesday clearing out the tools of the trade and confiscated as many as 300 marijuana plants from a nondescript warehouse in in the 2400 block of Inner Avenue in Puyallup.
"I never knew what was going on in there and I was always curious,” neighbor Donna Barnes said.
Barnes lives right across the street.
The Wednesday morning raid woke her from a sound sleep.
"There's a van out there with 10 or 12 SWAT. They all just stormed out and busted in there,” Barnes said.
Inside the warehouse, investigators found a huge plywood building that housed the illegal marijuana grow and hash oil extraction lab.
"The process of extracting the oil is extremely volatile, can cause an explosion and fire at any time,” Puyallup Police Capt. Scott Engle said.
The building is owned by Puyallup Deputy Mayor John Hopkins.
He says he had no idea an illegal operation was under way in his building.
"My understanding was medical records. That's how it was leased. It was done through a realtor, Gateway. Of course I signed the lease,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins showed us the lease on the property and admitted his tenant had plans to, one day, have a legal marijuana operation in the warehouse.
"I was also aware, let the record show, that they had an application in under a different name,” Hopkins said.
Several people have been detained and the man who leased the building is under arrest and in big trouble.
"He has an Immigrations, Customs and Enforcement detainer as he is here, we believe, in the country illegally. He's a British citizen,” Engle said.
Landlords are not legally responsible for what happens, unknowingly, in their buildings but each case is different and there can be exceptions.
"There will be continued investigation after this point but the deputy mayor at this time is not a current suspect in this case,” Engle said.