COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Neighbors in a Cottonwood Heights apartment complex called police early Wednesday believing that a unit was being burglarized.
But rather than a burglary, arriving officers discovered that a man was actually trying to pack up a drug lab and drive off, said Cottonwood Heights Police Lt. Dan Bartlett.
When detectives obtained a search warrant to go through the vehicle, they reported finding a variety of drugs, precursor chemicals and an entire clandestine lab.
"Oh my gosh, it's like a pharmacy in here. There's heroin, there's meth, there's suboxone, there's testosterone. There's a myriad of drugs in this kit. Unbelievable pills. A ton of pills," Bartlett said.
Detectives were still looking Wednesday into how so many pills were obtained.
The odd string of events began just after midnight when tenants at the Waterside Cove apartment complex, near 7200 South and Union Park Drive, called police believing that someone was burglarizing an apartment.
Officers found Daniel Jeffrey Orton, 37, of Salt Lake City, and another woman who is six months pregnant. Orton tried to run as police approached, throwing methamphetamine and heroin out of pockets as he ran, according to Bartlett. He was quickly tracked down and arrested for investigation of having a drug lab and drug distribution.
"Daniel repeatedly lied to officers and hid his vehicle on the other side of the condo complex, stating he had no vehicle and that his friends took it," officers noted in a Salt Lake County Jail report.
When officers found Orton's car, they had a police K-9 sniff it for drugs. The dog indicated there were drugs in the car, Bartlett said. The officers then obtained a search warrant for the vehicle.
"They opened up the car, started going through it … started getting a feeling in their throat, burning in their eyes, burning in their nose, really bad headaches. They thought, 'It's a meth lab,'" the lieutenant said.
A hazardous materials team was called out to decontaminate the officers who had been in the car. Tests showed that rather than meth, Orton had a lab in his car that was producing DMT, a kind of LSD that is produced through an extraction process using chemical solvents, Bartlett said.
"It's like if you were in a closed car with a bunch of paint thinner. They just thought initially it was a meth lab," Bartlett said of the headaches the officers experienced.
Detectives ended up collecting three large bags full of finished DMT product, in addition to the precursors, he said.
Detectives also learned that the man who was living in the apartment was not only in the process of being evicted due to drug-related issues, but he had recently been arrested and was in jail. Orton apparently knew the tenant was in jail and started crashing in the apartment a couple of days ago, he said.5 comments on this story
Investigators have dealt with the apartment and the man who lives there in the past, but not Orton, Bartlett said, adding that there were frequently different people who slept in the unit.
Orton has a long history of drug-related crimes, according to court records, including charges that were filed Wednesday in Midvale Justice Court for an incident on Monday.
In 2014, Orton was one of six people charged with operating a clandestine lab. He pleaded guilty to felony drug possession and was sentenced to probation. He was also convicted of felony drug distribution in 2012, court records state.
The pregnant woman was taken to a local hospital to be checked.