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Publish Date 08/22/2005

Police discover mobile methamphetamine lab on Main St.

LONGMONT - Traffic was narrowed to two lanes on Main Street for more than five hours Monday morning after police discovered a mobile methamphetamine lab in a van.

Witnesses reported a four-car crash in the 100 block of Main Street around 7 a.m. and when police arrived, they noticed a strong smell of ether coming from a white van involved in the crash. According to Longmont police Cmdr. Craig Earhart, ether is a chemical commonly used in methamphetamine labs.

One man who witnesses saw jump from the white van and flee the scene with a backpack is in custody and another is still at large, he added. Witnesses told police that van had been northbound and veered into southbound lanes, crashing into two cars.

The van, which sustained front-end damage, was left immobile at the scene.

"Both of the suspects jumped out of the van, carrying backpacks and fled," Earhart said.

Witnesses followed one of the men to an area near Ken Pratt Boulevard and Bowen Street, where police officers with dogs later caught him, officers said.

The backpack he was carrying was also found by police, he said. Police said on Monday they believed both backpacks contained meth lab components, but that was not confirmed at noon on Monday.

The man, whose identity has not yet been released by police, was brought back to the crash scene, decontaminated and taken to the police station.

Witnesses told police that the second man hitched a ride with a passer-by. That car was tracked to the Days Inn motel on Highway 119 in Del Camino, Earhart said, and police have secured a hotel room there.

While that man remained on the loose early Monday afternoon, officers did recover his backpack. It is yet unknown what was inside that pack.

Upon searching the white van, police found a propane tank full of toxic anhydrous ammonia.

Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at aarthur@times-call.com.

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