Snakes On A Grow – May 15, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arcata Police officers and Arcata Fire personnel preferred being outside looking in at the Roberts Way house, which was stacked with cages containing snakes, rodents, bugs and even a tarantula or two. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – The latest round of suspected grow house raids took some wiggly turns last week. Where APD’s efforts in previous weeks have yielded bulging bags of buds and truckloads of grow equipment, the dual enforcements last Wednesday, May 4 yielded one dry hole, one slightly compromised investigation, a case of the heebie-jeebies and perhaps some red faces.

In response to neighbor complaints, officers from the Arcata Police Department’s Special Services Unit served two search warrants on residences where illegal marijuana cultivation operations were suspected to be taking place.

The first search warrant was served at a residence in the 2500 block of McDowell Court. Officers  discovered  an indoor marijuana cultivation operation, however, it was determined to be in compliance with current proposition 215 guidelines. No marijuana was seized and no arrests were made.

The second search warrant was served at a residence at 1754 Roberts Way, where police say illegal marijuana growing was discovered. Nearly four pounds of processed marijuana, 100 mature growing marijuana plants, nearly a pound of concentrated cannabis, a semi-automatic rifle and cultivation equipment were seized according to an APD press release.

Det. Sgt. Todd Dokweiler said all but one bedroom and the living room of the Roberts Way house had been converted for cannabis growing.

A “hash”-making operation utilizing a cement mixer was discovered inside the residence.  The components used in the hash-making process carry a high risk of explosion, so the Arcata Fire Department responded as a precaution.

But the real twist was the large number of snakes, reptiles and spiders, some of which were venomous, which police say were being kept as pets inside the residence.

APD and Arcata Fire personnel were openly discomfited at all the reptilian life in the house, with cages stacked up on each other. That was unnerving enough, but even more worrisome were the many empty cages left with their doors open. “I’d rather it would have something in it,” said Ranger Kevin Stonebarger.

Compounding the creep-out factor was an open feeding trough of some sort in the garage, apparently for creatures allowed to roam free. Other items in the garage included more cages, plus boxes of reptile food, one of which was labeled “Iguana Yummies.”

Arms at his sides, Assistant Fire Chief Desmond Cowan walks through the garage, which was filled with animal cages and supplies. KLH | Eye

A California Department of Fish and Game warden responded and was to conduct a follow-up investigation. No one was home at the time the warrant was served and no arrests were made, but Dokweiler said an arrest warrant would be issued.

The house is owned by Davis and Sandra Reeve of Oceanside. The resident, Justin Reeve, came home later to find his home having been raided, the cannabis confiscated and a copy of the search warrant left behind.

Shaken by the intrusion into his home, Reeve misread the warrant and momentarily believed that police had come looking for heroin. But in his shock, he was mistaking the word “herein” used in the warrant for “heroin.”

Reeve said the cannabis grows belonged to his roommates, and referred to them as their “medical.”

The snakes, he said, were rescue reptiles. “All the snakes are in rehab,” he said.

He said he’s been dealing with the cold-blooded critters for 13 years, and that he takes in sick and malnourished snakes, nurses them back to health and finds homes for them. The tarantulas, though, are his pets.

The story took still another twist when police returned to Reeve’s home later in the afternoon – not to arrest him, but to look for a camera they had misplaced.

“It’s weird,” Reeve said. “They came back and said, ‘We’re missing a camera, can we come in and look for it?’” He said the officers made clear that they weren’t there to arrest him, even though they would have had he been home during the raid, and an arrest warrant was in the works.

Unfortunately for APD and their case, though, the $800 Nikon containing all the evidence photographs was not located and its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Reeve said he assured the officers that, “If we find it, we’ll let you know.”

He said that the officers took interest in his vacuum-seal apparatus, a device commonly used in drug packaging. But he said he told them it was to package up dead mice, which he sells as reptile food. “My fridge is full of ’em,” he told the officers.

Reeve’s business, the license of which is posted in his front window, is called Feeders 2 You ( He provides not just mice, but crickets, mealworms and even cockroaches to owners of exotic animals.

The APD statement released later didn’t mention any pending arrest warrant, as is more or less routine with grow house busts where the occupants aren’t home, and which Dokweiler had previously alluded to.

But Monday, Chapman said charges against Reeve are in the works, missing evidence photos notwithstanding. “It doesn’t take away from the officers’ observations,” Chapman said. With photos, he said, “the just gets a better picture of the scope and scale… this just makes it more difficult.”

APD Chief Tom Chapman said that his officers’ uneasiness over the house’s slithering occupants might have contributed to their forgetting where they put the camera. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Chapman said. “This is the first time we lost a camera at a grow house.”

Chapman said no Prop 215 recommendations could be found at the house, in which cultivation was being conducted far in excess of that allowed under Arcata’s medical cannabis ordinance.

Though Reeve may have been in violation of Land Use Code provisions governing reptile ownership, APD isn’t pursuing that. “It’s kind of murky when you mix the Municipal Code with state laws,” Chapman said. The DA’s Office doesn’t prosecute Muni Code violations.

Chapman said that after consulting with the DA’s Office, the cannabis case was deemed strong enough to pursue. He said Reeve will be charged with cannabis cultivation and charges related to concentrated cannabis (hashish) production.

Reeve said he was in touch with a cannabis attorney. “It’s a situation,” he said. “I’ve gotten myself in kind of a tough spot.”

Reeve said the wiring for the grows was installed by a licensed electrician, but according to APD, City of Arcata building inspectors discovered numerous building code violations at both addresses, necessitating the immediate disconnection of electrical service.

If you suspect illegal drug activity in your neighborhood, please contact the Arcata Police Department Special Services Unit at (707)-822-2428



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