Digging In: A kayaker digs in to get back into the eddy below Smelter Rapid./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Task force nets giant drug bust

Members of the Southwest Drug Task Force netted another large local drug bust last week. On Thursday, March 25, task force officers and La Plata County Sheriff's deputies served a search warrant at a home in Oxford, near the La Plata County Airport.

According to task force reports, the warrant concluded a one-year investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into La Plata County. Investigators seized approximately 1`BC pounds of methamphetamine. Its grade was characterized as "glass," a refined and very potent form of the drug. Fifty grams of black tar heroin and 25 grams of cocaine were also seized along with approximately $9,000. The estimated street value of the drugs was pegged at $89,000. The task force also reported that the seizure prevented the local distribution of 6,200 dosage units of methamphetamine, 530 dosage units of heroin and 250 dosage units of cocaine.

La Plata County residents Patsy Schertz, 46, and David Witt, 48, have been booked at the La Plata County Jail, and bonds for each were set at $100,000.00. Prior to Schertz's arrest on March 25, she had been twice arrested for similar charges and was out on bond. Durango residents Manual Sanchez, 28, and Lindsay Walters, 21, were also arrested for possession of methamphetamine during the investigation.

The Southwest Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional investigative unit comprised of investigators from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Ignacio Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff's Office.

Construction to close Animas River

In an unusual twist on construction closures, a section of the Animas River will be closed to river traffic on Monday and Tuesday, April 5 and 6. Crews are currently building the new County Road 213 bridge behind Home Depot and are asking river users to stay off that stretch of the river.

County Engineer Rick Routh commented: "We're just trying to be as safe as we can. We'd be remiss if we didn't let people know about this ahead of time."

On April 5 and 6, crews will be setting bridge girders across the river and a safety concern exists for recreational boaters under the suspended loads.

"When those girders are set in place you don't want anyone underneath them," Routh said. "There is always a remote chance of them dropping in the river."

Routh added that the section of river to be closed is not highly used during this time of the year. An electronic variable message signboard will be placed next to the river just downstream of the state highway bridge (High Bridge) near the La Plata County Humane Society and Wal-Mart. River traffic should exit the river at that point on these days.

Construction on the bridge is proceeding according to schedule with completion expected in mid-September.

Forest Service addressing lynx habitat

With the local lynx population picking up steam, the San Juan National Forest is considering amending its forest plan to improve habitat. On Monday, April 5, the Forest Service will host a public open house and gauge local sentiment on amending the plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Canada lynx as a threatened species in March 2000 and cited the lack of guidance in federal land management plans as the chief threat to conservation of lynx and their habitat. The Forest Service is responsible for providing habitat that will support a viable population of lynx.Reintroduction of lynx, a project of the Colorado Division of Wildlife that began in 1999, is not a topic for the open house.

The proposed amendment would add direction for conservation of lynx and their habitat to the forest plans involved. The proposed alternative responds to concerns over restrictions on new snowmobile trails, precommercial tree thinning and fuel-reduction projects associated with wildfire risk.

Forest Service wildlife biologists and planners will be on hand to answer questions about lynx habitat management during the meeting which runs from 4-7 p.m. at the San Juan Public Lands Center. Maps showing lynx habitat on the San Juan National Forest will be displayed and the draft draft environmental impact statement is currently available for review and comment. For more information, call 385-1345.

Christmas Day shooter arrested

An arrest warrant was served to 46-year-old Eugene Nick Martinez on Monday in his Denver hospital room, where he is recovering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Martinez is being charged with attempted murder in a Christmas morning shooting spree near Ignacio, in which four people were fired upon, one of whom was slightly injured.

The warrant was served by Denver County Sheriff's Office at the Denver Health Medical Center. Afterwards, Martinez was transferred to another part of the building where the Sheriff's Office houses inmates with medical conditions. Martinez' condition does not allow him to travel. It is not known when he might be transported to La Plata County to face the charges.

La Plata County Sheriff's Office Investigators have been unable to interview Martinez about the event, and because of his injuries, they are unsure when or if they will be able to.

Attempted Murder is a Class 2 felony that carries a bond of $50,000 and eight to 24 years in prison.

The early morning Christmas Day incident began when law enforcement and fire personnel responded to a report of a structure fire on County Road 510.As they arrived, they came under heavy gunfire.Four vehicles were struck multiple times. One round passed through the driver's side windshield of a Southern Ute Tribal Police car, narrowly missing the officer, who sustained cuts from glass and bullet fragments.A volunteer fireman was saved from being hit when a bullet entered the rear window of his vehicle and embedded in equipment behind his head.A passerby's car and another Southern Ute Police car took multiple rounds.

Prior to the shootings, it is alleged that Martinez set his home on fire as well as two pickup trucks, two trailers and a storage building. Five rifles and two semi-auto pistols were recovered from Martinez and the scene.

compiled by Will Sands & Missy Votel





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