Meth lab found, two arrested in Columbia County


Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 1:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 1:51 p.m.

Columbia County sheriff's deputies have arrested two men after a meth lab standoff in a residential apartment.

Keith David Wheeldon, 32, and Michael William Keene, 41, both of Lake City, were charged Tuesday night with manufacture of meth and three possession infractions, according to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Seifert.

Deputies got a tip around 9 p.m. from an anonymous caller saying there was illicit drug activity going on at 3708 NW Huntsboro St., Apt 101.

"This is not the first time we've seen these kinds of labs," Seifert said, "and unfortunately we're seeing them more and more."

When they arrived, Seifert said, deputies smelled a "strong chemical odor" from inside the apartment that they said was consistent with homemade meth.

The area includes a set of duplexes, and the suspects' house was attached to a neighbor's separated by a garage, Seifert said. The odor was so strong, he said, the neighbors definitely could smell it.

Deputies detained Wheeldon outside the apartment and learned Keene was inside cooking meth.

Because of the severity of the smell and the potential danger involved with a homemade meth lab, deputies decided to contact Keene through a public address system and by telephone, Seifert said. Keene refused to come outside.

Deputies evacuated nearby apartments, and the fire department and rescue workers responded to the scene.

Seifert said they negotiated with Keene for more than two hours. At 12:15 a.m., he came out, and police took him into custody without incident.

Authorities then contained the hazardous materials and allowed nearby residents to return to their homes.

Seifert said authorities seized the evidence and are processing it to get a sense of exactly how much meth was on the property.

Wheeldon was being held at the Columbia County jail, with his bond set at $30,000. Keene's bond was $60,000.

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