Narcotics investigators netted more than $44 million worth of methamphetamine in a raid Thursday morning on a drug lab in a house next to an elementary school, authorities said.
Police Lt. Randy Narramore said the seizure was the largest ever by the El Cajon Police Department.
Detectives armed with search warrants descended on a house on the 1000 block of Merritt Drive at midnight and conducted a seven-hour search of the home, which is adjacent to the Anza School playground.
Mark Humphrey White, 29, was taken into custody at the house and is being held in County Jail in downtown San Diego for investigation of narcotics violations and possession of stolen property, Narramore said.
The seizure was not the largest in county history, but some narcotics officers speculated that the 16 pounds of methamphetamine in powder form seized in the basement drug laboratory may have a higher street value than estimated.
Investigators also confiscated 100 gallons of methamphetamine oil, which Narramore said is enough to produce 800 pounds of powdered “speed” or “crank,” as the drug is commonly known. Narramore said officers later found 25 to 50 gallons more of a liquid substance, but it has not been determined if it is methamphetamine.
Officers removing the chemicals took extra precautions because of the volatile nature of ether, which is used in the manufacture of the drug, and the home’s proximity to the school.
Police also found an unspecified amount of cash at the house, as well as stolen property including stereo equipment, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and jewelry, Narramore said. Video equipment, a police scanner and an electronic scale for weighing drugs were also found, he said.
The drug raid was the culmination of a six-month investigation, Narramore said. Neighbors had complained about odors and traffic around the home.
Neighbors said White had lived in the house for about two years after buying it from his father.
Kay Polk, who lives across the street, said White built a redwood fence around the house soon after moving in.
“He usually kept to himself and seemed like a nice young man,” Polk said.
“However, people would come by all the time, especially at night. Many of them were hippie types, on bikes with beards and long hair. You know, the kind of people who didn’t fit into this neighborhood.”