When demolition crews go to work in a building, they never know what might be lurking inside, out of sight.
One of the last things they usually expect to find inside a wall is a bag of narcotics. But that’s what one group of construction workers found when they were recently remodeling a building in Hobbs.
The crew was tearing out a wall when they noticed a bag that appeared to them to be an evidence bag from the Hobbs Police Department.
Workers called police, who dispatched an officer to the demolition site at the Hobbs Industrial Air Park. The officer told workers the 3 grams of heroin was probably left behind from K-9 officers training.
“It was short encounter,” HPD interim chief August Fons told the News-Sun. “He told them is it was probably used by K-9 trainers … the trainers (probably) used it to ‘hide’ for the K-9 to find.”
Three grams has an approximate street value of $400.
After looking into the matter further, HPD Capt. Danny Garrett said the package of narcotics was likely somehow left behind from a training exercise with K-9 units — but it was likely left behind more than a decade ago.
“What we’ll normally do is any type of narcotics that has been logged into evidence for destruction — found narcotics, no suspect or any case (attached to it) — the K-9 units, in the past, could check those out and use it in their training kit,” Garrett told the News-Sun. And, only members of the K-9 team were allowed to check out narcotics packages scheduled for destruction to be used as training aids, he added.
But in this case, police don’t know when the bag containing the heroin was checked out from the destruction list. And, the bag type used, while marked as HPD, is not a bag normally used by the department. The bag was a velvet bag with HPD written on it.
“The problem on this one is there was no date, none of the current K-9 officers have ever been in that building to train, so … it could have been within the past decade. The last time I was on the team was in 2010,” Garrett said. “No one remembers (this bag or training there). … We’re unable to pinpoint exactly when, or what era, or what.”
Garrett told the News-Sun in the past, the K-9 unit would not just check out individual “hide” packets. Individual “hides” would be placed in a brief case, and that briefcase would be a kit. The kit — containing individual “hides” — was then checked out by the K-9 team.
“It was checked out to the K-9 unit, and the K-9 unit was responsible for that,” Garrett said. “The last time I remember was … it was a long time ago.”
“I don’t know exactly when it was done, but it was before all of these guys here,” Fons agreed.
Garrett said the training “hide” checked out from the destruction list — whenever it was — was most likely something originally turned into police as being found, with no owner or case attached to it.
“Even if it was used for a case at one point, once (the case) has been adjudicated, and sentencing has been done, then that narcotic would have been able to be checked out — but that was far and few,” he said.
And, while at one point the city did own the property where the narcotics package was found, the city sold the property to a private owner around 2011.
Garrett said the outcome of the found bag will now be what it should have been years ago.
“It’s been logged in (at the department) for destruction,” he said.
This is only the second time in 16 years Garrett remembers a “hide” used for training was ever known to have been left behind — and the other fell out of the training kit into the back of a patrol unit several years ago.
“As far as hides being left, I can only think of twice in 16 years. And, one of them was actually in a unit. An officer went to clean out their K-9 unit and it (the hide) had fallen out of the briefcase they use for housing the narcotics,” Garrett said. “So both have been recovered.”
Garrett explained how K-9 training scenarios usually go.
“What they’ll do is, they go out (where they will be training), and they’ll place ‘hides’ in different locations. They usually wait a good hour or two then they’ll run the dogs,” Garrett said. “Then they’ll go through and log everything down and collect it. It looks like, this training aid was left somewhere. … It’s (probably) just an officer in a hurry collecting things, and not checking all the hides.”
Within the last year HPD changed the way K-9 training is done, so this kind of loss is not likely to happen again. The new method provides a secondary check to make sure everything is in order, Garrett said.
About six to nine months ago, HPD switched from K-9 officers checking out narcotics scheduled for destruction to using Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) training aids. The department recently turned in the batch of K-9 training aids they were using, and are now waiting on a new batch of training aids and hides from the DEA for K-9 training, he said.
“Every so often they (the K-9 unit) have to send back the old (training aids and hides) and have to apply again through the federal DEA for more training aids. We haven’t received the new stuff yet,” said Garrett.
Fons said the good news with finding this long-forgotten hide was it was found by the workers, turned in to HPD, and is scheduled for destruction.
“We got it here, and there’s nothing criminal afoot,” Fons said.