The major marijuana busts going on across Grays Harbor County included a search warrant served on an Ocean Shores house on Narwhal Loop, among numerous other locations.
As police confiscated thousands of marijuana plants, fertilizer bottles and other equipment from more than 30 houses Tuesday morning in an operation by the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force and many other agencies, neighbors were left stunned after realizing what had been going on their midst.
22-year-old Demetria Bailey-Church, who lives on Holly Lane in Cosmopolis, across the street from one of the suspected marijuana growing facilities, was shocked when she saw numerous police officers show up and begin purging the basement of plants.
“[The neighbors] seemed kind of suspicious, but you don’t really know what’s going on,” said Bailey-Church. “There was never a weird smell. But then [police] started pulling it all out, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening at the neighbor’s house?’ I was pretty surprised.”
Bailey-Church recalled there typically being one older Asian woman at the house, but that a large van would sometimes show up with two men who would back it into the garage before closing the door. Other than one man stepping out to mow the lawn occasionally or the woman taking her trash out, Bailey-Church said she rarely saw her neighbors or interacted with them, and suspected they spoke little English.
While police were raiding the house Tuesday morning, the van had showed up again, but quickly fled upon realizing authorities were searching the house, Bailey-Church said.
“The van that’s frequently there with one of the guys drove by while they were doing the bust,” said Bailey-Church. “So he saw that and went flying up the hill and left.”
Although most of the fertilizers and equipment were taken away by authorities, there were still remnants at the house Wednesday afternoon including several piles of stems, crushed leaves and dirt blocks, along with dozens of fertilizer bottles.
Mike Brown, of Cosmopolis, sold the house in April through a real estate agency and had very little contact with the buyer.
“He bought the place without even looking at it,” said Brown. “All I heard when I got my call from (the agency) was we got an offer for cash, out of Tennessee, and that he was a Chinese guy.”
Brown said he grew up in the house, and that it notably had a spacious basement area.
“There were two very large rooms downstairs, maybe 14 by 25 feet. It’s a big room, we had a pool table down there when I was growing up,” said Brown, who does computer repair and works at the Hong Kong restaurant in Cosmopolis. “On the other side of the family room area was a big workshop, probably, 12 by 30 feet.”
An Aberdeen man told a similar story Wednesday, saying his house sold in a matter of days, for more than the asking price, in a cash transaction. The agent said the buyer said he was from Georgia and he was Chinese. The former homeowner said the first thing the new owners did was enclose an open carport and add a security door.
The operation by authorities included issuing 50 search warrants and the arrests of 44 people, all of whom were Chinese citizens, according to Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate. Due to the unexpected large number of arrests, Shumate said it was challenging to communicate with all the suspects.
“There were issues with the language barrier and the limited number” of translators, he said. “We arrested more than we expected and I don’t believe any of the individuals spoke English. Some gave some information and some none.”
The Sheriff’s Office provided a list of the areas the search warrants were served. In Grays Harbor County, they included:
Aberdeen: Aberdeen Lake Road, Scammel Street, South Harbor, North Rice, North Bank Road, H Street, WishkahRoad, Trentland Park Drive, Cherry Street, Sumner Avenue.
Hoquiam: Queets Avenue, O Street, West Chenault, Karr Street, Aberdeen Avenue, Larence Street, Pacific Avenue,22nd Street, B Street, East Hoquiam Road.
Grayland: Chester Avenue.
Ocean Shores: Narwhal Loop.
Cosmopolis: 2nd Street, Holly Lane, Lund Road.
Montesano: South Glenn Street, Geissler Road.
Elma: Cloquallum Road, Middle Earth Lane.
McCleary: West Simpson, Larson Road (muliple locations), Elma-McCleary Road, East Elma Hicklin Road.