Posts tagged ‘texas’

La., Texas united against synthetic marijuana sales

In the war on drugs, Texas and Louisiana continue to maintain a united front.

On Wednesday, about 40 officers and prosecutors met in Lake Charles to discuss how to combat the latest issue in their areas: synthetic marijuana.

District Attorney John DeRosier said about 30 stores in Calcasieu Parish sell the products — an herbs-and-spices mixture sprayed with chemicals that mimic THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana.

“They are marketed as incense, but kids and young adults are smoking it to get high,” DeRosier said.

Louisiana passed legislation in June 2009 that outlawed the five main chemicals used in the substance, but within in a month, companies switched out one or two compounds to circumvent the law, DeRosier said.

“After meeting today, we think we have crafted language that would ban all synthetic cannabinoids that they are coming out with,” he said.

Jefferson County (Texas) Sheriff Mitch Woods said the goal is to get legislation passed in both states around the same time. The Louisiana and Texas legislatures will go into session in April and January.

“This synthetic marijuana came up in the last year or so, and it’s just become a severe problem nationwide,” said Woods, whose jurisdiction includes Beaumont and Port Arthur.

He said there is a lot unknown about the effects on users of the synthetic marijuana, which is packaged under titles like Night Fire, Spice and K2. The herbs are usually sold in one-gram packs for $20 to $40.

“In the last two months, we had a young man whose death was attributed to the synthetic marijuana,” Woods said.

On Aug. 6, Dallas teen Dominique Tate, 19, reportedly died after witnesses said he smoked a large amount of K2.

“He passed out, and they put him to bed. The next day they took him to the hospital, where he died,” Woods said.

DeRosier said Calcasieu deputies have stopped impaired drivers who admitted smoking the synthetic marijuana.

In Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, District Attorney Patricia Lykos said federal intervention may be necessary.

“These drugs are brought in by foreign chemical companies mainly in India and China, and the state department needs to put pressure on them,” she said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 15 states have tried to control the chemicals. The DEA — in response to the substance’s changing composition — announced it would use its emergency scheduling authority to classify the five chemicals as Schedule I drugs.

This would make possessing and selling the chemicals illegal for at least a year. During that time, the Department of Health and Human Services would look into whether the chemicals should be permanently controlled.

December 9, 2010 at 2:39 am

Alex south of border; rain still likely

*published July 1, 2010

Michael Collins, left, and Austin Vincent, both of Grand Lake, watch waves kicked up by Hurricane Alex, crash around them on Wednesday on the shores of Rutherford Beach in Cameron Parish. Collins' mother, Priscilla Collins, brought the boys down to the beach to see how even a far off hurricane could affect the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. BY CLAUDETTE OLIVIER

Hurricane Alex made landfall at about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in an unpopulated area of the Mexican coast about 100 miles south of the U.S. border, forecasters said.

Once landfall took place, the worst was over for Cameron Parish, said Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Clifton Hebert.

Hebert said the tides were 2 to 3 feet above normal at Holly Beach and that winds knocked down some of the Hesco barriers put up to hold back any oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“They kept the water from getting to the road, which was the point,” Hebert said.

Louisiana National Guard soldiers will be out today and Friday fixing them and adding more barriers, Hebert said.

On Wednesday, the Lake Area got a dose of heavy rain brought by Alex. Residents should expect thunderstorms and an 80 percent chance of rain today and a 60 percent chance of rain Friday.

Alex reached Category 2 status, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

The National Weather Service says the storm will continue northwest over Mexico and dissipate within the next two days.


July 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Hurricane warning for Texas, Mexico

*published June 29, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex slowly strengthened overnight and is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane today, according the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

Overnight, Alex was in the Gulf of Mexico about 500 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, with sustained winds of 65 mph.

Category 1 hurricanes have winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

A Hurricane warning remains in place along the Texas-Mexico border and current projections have the storm making landfall near the border.

With it’s current path, Cameron officials said they only expect minor problems.

“Right now, the weather service is telling us we’ll get an extra foot or two (on our tides) with this current path,” said Clifton Hebert, Cameron Parish emergency preparedness director.

Hebert said officials are on 24-hour call because they know how quickly the situation can change with a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’ll be up early this morning checking on Alex again, and if anything changes, we’re ready to regroup and I know our people are.”


June 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Local police break record for seized prescriptions

*Nov. 9, 2009
Task force director: Cooperation between states, laws necessary

Local law enforcers seized more than 3,100 prescription pills last week, pushing them past their 2008 record of 7,244 illegal pills confiscated, according to Combined Anti-Drug Task Force statistics.

Director Lt. Billy Chapman says he thinks good law enforcement has contributed to those numbers, but there are other factors that are more important.

In 2007, 56 people overdosed on prescription drugs in Calcasieu Parish. In 2008, there were 33 overdoses. So far this year, there have been 23.

“It’s a gradual decrease as we get everything working together,” Chapman said.

“Everything” isn’t just in Louisiana. Chapman said about 95 percent of all illegal drugs in Southwest Louisi–ana are coming from southeast Texas.

“We have local and federal officers we speak to every week in Houston and Orange and Beaumont,” Chapman said. “But they (in Texas) don’t have the laws in place yet to make arrests.”

The laws he is referring to would be similar to doctor shopping, drug-monitoring and labeling statutes in Louisiana that have been passed in the past three or four years.

A doctor-shopping bill would make it a felony to have a prescription filled at multiple clinics or pharmacies within a certain amount of time.

The Louisiana prescription drug-monitoring law gave the go-ahead to set up a database — accessible only by doctors, pharmacists and law enforcers — that shows how much of a scheduled drug was prescribed to a person in the state.

The most-recent law passed in Louisiana was to change Soma from a legend drug to a schedule IV drug. As a legend drug, doctors and pharmacists did not have to report how much of the drug they were prescribing and dispensing.

“This was a big step, because Soma is part of that trilogy of pills — along with hydrocodone and Xanax — people are getting when they doctor shop.

These laws have made it difficult to get large quantities of prescription pills in Louisiana, but a large supply is available across the border in Texas.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier had been working with Texas legislators to push through tougher regulations of prescription pills.

In this latest session, Texas passed a law that required all pain management clinics to be owned by a physician registered with the state board of health.

“Before, anybody could own a clinic and hire a doctor to run it,” Chapman said. “So what we were finding is the doctor was only there a few days a week and doctor’s assistants and nurses were writing the majority of the prescriptions.”

Texas’ Legislature meets every two years, instead of every year.

“People always need to understand that this takes time,” Chapman said. “When we got the prescription monitoring law passed, it took another year for us to get the database set up, and there is always something we can fix.”

A doctor-shopping bill will be presented in the next Texas Legislature.

“After that we’ll be rocking and rolling,” Chapman said. “The goal is always to stop it from even getting out there.”


November 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

$68,000 worth of drugs seized

*published Nov. 3, 2009

Three traffic stops on I-10 lead to busts
Three separate traffic stops on Interstate 10 last week led to the seizure of more than $68,000 in prescription pills and illegal drugs — not record confiscations but a “significant pop,” said Lt. Billy Chapman, director of the Combined Anti-Drug Task Force.

At 6 p.m. Oct. 25, officers reportedly stopped Sylvinnia S. Moore, 28, and Samantha J. Lewis, 21, both of Mobile, Ala., on Interstate 10 in Lake Charles and found 120 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of their rented vehicle. They were traveling from Houston to Mobile, officers said.

At 9 p.m. Oct. 28, officers reportedly stopped Jonathan K. Kennerson, 23, of Houston, and Camiece M. Groves, 21, of Huffman, Texas, and found three bags — with 2,016 hydrocodone pills and 504 Xanax pills — hidden in the fender of their car. Kennerson was going to Lafayette, officers said.

At about midnight Oct. 29, officers stopped John H. LeGros, 30, of Roanoke, near Vinton and found 613 Lorcet pills and 46 Somas in his vehicle.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso said the seizures were significant because District Attorney John DeRosier has been working hard to help control prescription drug abuse in the area.

“These are the pills that have been killing our young people in Calcasieu Parish,” DeRosier said.

He said state doctor-shopping laws and prescription pill monitoring systems have made it difficult for people to get such large amounts of drugs in the state.

“We made strides this year with the Texas Legislature passing laws to regulate pain management clinics,” he said. “We still have to get a doctor shopping statute there.”


Mancuso said agencies here are working with the Houston police, Harris Country deputies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and drug task forces in Lafayette and Mobile.

“It’s been so important to combine our efforts with other local and federal law enforcement,” Mancuso said. “We have major waterways and a major interstate coming through the parish.”

Sgt. Gene Pittman with the local task force said well over 90 percent of the drugs in the area come in through Houston.


November 3, 2009 at 10:13 am

Sulphur women sentenced for conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants in Texas

published Oct. 30, 2009

Three Sulphur women were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Thursday on charges of conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants.

Carolyn Joyce Metcalf was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and three years’ probation; Terri Lynn Fields was sentenced to two years and three months in prison and three years’ probation; and Jean Morgan Vincent was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The maximum penalty is five years in prison.

According to court documents, the women were recruited by Joan R. Comeaux, also of Sulphur, to take illegal immigrants from the southern Texas border to other locations within Texas.

About a dozen trips reportedly took place between 2005 and 2007.

Comeaux, along with one or more of the three women, would drive to Harlingen, Texas, to coordinate with drivers who did the actual transporting of illegal immigrants.

On average, Comeaux paid the women $500 for each trip.

Metcalf said she and Fields made the trips without Comeaux at least five times in nine months.

During those trips, they drove to Houston in a personal vehicle, rented a different vehicle, and took three to eight immigrants from Harlingen to Houston.

Comeaux is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10.

October 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

Texas OKs forced evacuations

published August 1, 2009
Calcasieu officials say that’s never a good idea

A Texas law set to take effect Sept. 1 gives law enforcement officers the right to use “reasonable force” during a mandatory evacuation.

The law, sponsored by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, does not give a definition of “ reasonable force.” Carona told The Associated Press the law could be of use “in removing children, the elderly or infirm from unsafe situations.”

In Louisiana, there is no law in place to force residents to leave their homes, regardless of the situation. But both Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said they make sure their officers explain the consequences of remaining.

“The resident is told that at some point they could be cut off from all parish services,” Mancuso said. “That means no police, no fire or medical services and that they are staying at their own risk.”

Dixon also said his officers won’t force anyone to evacuate.

“We can make sure residents without transportation get to a shelter or a bus going north,” Dixon said. “But they are also told when we go to code red (winds are above 40 mph) we can’t send someone out to help them.”

Dixon said that in “extreme cases” — where a person may have a mental illness and pose a danger to themselves or others — an officer can take a person to the hospital for evaluation.

“I think our Legislature had explored some type of option (to compel evacuation), but they scrapped it,” Mancuso said. “And in my opinion, it really seems unenforceable.

“For instance, if we have 200,000 people in the parish and 40,000 decide to stay, I don’t see how we have the manpower to make all of them leave.”

Mancuso said the only thing he could think of would be to file charges afterward, because arresting people is also out of the question.

“We empty our jail and send our prisoners north, too,” he said.

Dixon agreed with Mancuso’s assessment, saying a department could also be put in a position to be sued after the fact.

In rationalizing the lack of a definition of “reasonable force,” Carona said the law is meant to be a tool for Texas law enforcement officers to use at their own discretion.

Sgt. Mark Kraus with the city said the law enforcement definition of “reasonable force” when a suspect is resisting “is to use a greater force than what is being exerted upon the officer.”

“And I just don’t see it as logical for an officer to be in a standoff with someone trying to get them out of their own property,” Kraus said.


August 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm