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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
In Provo on Wednesday, task force members search a vehicle that officers believe had been used as a mobile meth lab.

PROVO — After a Provo officer pulled a man over in a routine traffic stop and discovered several methamphetamine-related ingredients Wednesday afternoon, he called in the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force to launch a full-scale investigation on hazardous chemicals piled in the car's trunk.

When the officer noticed the driver was "extremely" intoxicated, he searched the car and discovered multiple chemical compounds and equipment that suggested the car had been used as a mobile meth lab.

The male driver was immediately arrested but remained at the scene at 500 East and 600 South for 2 1/2 hours while police questioned him and the task force examined bags and bottles from the open trunk while wearing full-body chemical protection suits.

"We recognize this guy," said Lt. Rich Ferguson of the task force. "He's been around a lot of years."

The driver, 35 and from Provo, told police he had been carrying the chemicals around since 2002 and had planned to get rid of them "tonight," but couldn't because of his arrest.

Standing mid-road in a cool, stiff breeze, six officers tested and measured the extracted chemicals in small glass jars, then slipped them into evidence bags.

Halfway through their initial investigation, officers said there did not seem to be quite enough compound to make a batch of meth. However, they said, there was "more than enough" to bring charges under the Utah Controlled Substance Precursor Act, an anti-meth law that prohibits citizens from possessing large amounts of the drug's key ingredients.

Alone, each chemical is no threat — or illegal — but together they can be "toxic and life-threatening," said a Major Crimes officer at the scene, who cannot be identified because he still works undercover.

"We have (retired) officers dying right now because of this exact stuff," he said.

The handcuffed driver appeared calm as officers transported him from the busy scene. Officers scheduled a forensic nurse to run drug tests at the Utah County Jail, where the man later was booked on drug-related charges.


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