Strange-smelling luggage led to the arrest of a man suspected of smuggling $1 million worth of PCP - a volatile, psychosis-inducing hallucinogen - through Salt Lake City via bus.
The suspect apparently tried to change buses while traveling through Salt Lake City to Chicago from Los Angeles but was stopped because his luggage smelled bad, authorities said.The man allegedly was carrying the liquid PCP in six 1-gallon metal containers that were leaking, creating a serious hazard, said Utah Department of Investigation Lt. Dave Fullmer.
Ether is used in the manufacture of PCP, or phencyclidine, which can explode if exposed to a spark, Fullmer said. To carry the drug in metal containers - which can create their own sparks - was dangerous for that reason, and because the corrosive chemicals could have become more unstable in metal containers than in glass. According to UDI Sgt. Allen Larsen, six gallons of PCP has potentially the same destructive power as 48 sticks of dynamite.
Fullmer said the man carried his bag rather than check it with baggage handlers and that it was highly unusual to see PCP transported by bus.
After being called to the bus station Thursday, authorities requested the city fire department's hazardous-materials team to handle the suspected dangerous chemicals. The "hazmat" team sealed the chemicals in drums for overnight storage.
Lab tests conducted Friday confirmed that the substance in the containers was PCP, Fullmer said.
PCP is also known as "peace pill" and "angel dust." The drug comes in either liquid or powder form, depending on how it is processed, Fullmer said. Users smoke the hallucinogen, usually after dripping or sprinkling it onto a marijuana or tobacco cigarette. The drug can also be absorbed through the skin.
The drug's effects are unpredictable, but PCP can induce bizarre behavior often accompanied by augmented strength. People under the influence of PCP are difficult to subdue, and police officers have noted that such weapons as stun guns are either useless or somehow combine with the drug with lethal effect.
The PCP probably will be destroyed sometime this week, Larsen said.
Marcus D. Johnson, 31, is being held at the Salt Lake County Jail. He was charged last week in a magistrate's complaint with possession with intent to distribute PCP.