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Inglis Police Officer Tim Rogers made a traffic stop for a seat belt violation on Sunday afternoon that was anything but routine to most folks.
A car he stopped for a seat belt violation turned out to be a rolling meth lab — from pill grinder to a batch cooking in a laundry basket on top of the car’s fuel tank.
“There was an active cook taking place,” Rogers said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
The vehicle was also pulled in next to the gas pumps at the Kangaroo on U.S. Highway 19.
“It was a volatile substance on top of a gas tank,” Rogers, a certified meth lab processor, said.
“It was extremely toxic and these are hazardous materials and they are volatile.” Also in the trunk was a Mason jar with Coleman fuel and meth oil. Rogers said the jar yielded 37.4 milligrams of meth.
Rogers arrested the three people in the vehicle, cleared the convenience store and called in the Inglis Fire Department and the Levy County Sheriff’s Office.
“I moved the one pot and neutralized it there,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he was on patrol when he spotted the front passenger did not have a seat belt on and pulled over the vehicle. During the stop he discovered the driver’s license was suspended, noticed the car’s three occupants were “extremely nervous” and spotted drug paraphernalia visible inside the car.
Rogers said he asked if there was anything illegal in the car and and got the owner’s consent to search it.
Those arrested, their charges and bail are:
• Johnathan Bradford Wilkerson, 36, of Trenton, the vehicle’s driver, on possession of meth over 14 grams, production of meth, possession of chemical used to manufacture a controlled substance, possession of drug manufacturing equipment and driving with a suspended license. His bond is $131,000.
• Donna Alyce Thompson Jones, 36, of Old Town, the vehicle’s owner, on possession of meth over 14 grams, production of meth, two counts of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of chemical used to manufacture a controlled substance, obstruction without violence. Her bond is $150,000.
• Erica Bontrager, 21, of Fanning Springs, on possession of meth over 14 grams, production of meth, possession of chemical used to manufacture a controlled substance and possession of drug manufacturing equipment. Her bond is $130,000.
Rogers said the incident is not unusual. “Unfortunately it’s common in Inglis with it being on the county line. Three weeks ago I had another.”
“It is what it is and it’s dangerous.”
The production of meth uses dangerous chemicals, flammable liquids and lithium — which when exposed to moisture becomes highly reactive and can ignite the fuel.
“It’s scary because it’s dangerous,” Rogers said. “And my main concern is with the public.”
“The people who manufacture this are apparently willing to take that risk. That is the power of the addiction.”