Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.
During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”
Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.
According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”
Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.
With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.
With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.
At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.
See the full media release below:
“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”
On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.
The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.
As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.
Subsequent to the arrest of Tony Merrell officers have retrieved over 1,000 items in potentially stolen property. Detectives say the property came from Pickens and surrounding counties and were allegedly either traded to Merrell for drugs or he paid for them.
Merrell has been charged with three counts of theft by receiving, two counts of altering the VIN number of vehicles, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, having a firearm as a convicted felon as well as possession of drug charges.
His wife Tonya Michelle Merrell faces charges of altering vehicle serial numbers and theft by receiving. She was released on bond Tuesday. Investigators believe a third arrest will be coming soon.
The sheriff’s office has posted photos of the stolen property which can be viewed here:
Anyone who has had items stolen is welcome to make an appointment with the criminal investigation division.
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Crime Information Alert
A Public Service Announcement
Reward Offered For Information on Burglaries
Pickens Sheriff’s Office Detectives are continuing to investigate an increase in burglaries that have occurred between the dates of August 12, 2015 through September 11, 2015 The majority of the burglaries have occurred at businesses in the community. The consistent entry method in the burglaries has been by means of forced entry either through a window or through an exterior wall. The most common items taken have been jewelry and currency.
Detectives are hopeful evidence collected at the crimes scenes will lead to the identity of the perpetrator (s). In addition, anyone with information related to these burglaries is urged to contact the Pickens Sheriff’s Office.
Pickens Sheriff’s Office is offering a reward of up to $1,000 dollars for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the burglaries. A person giving information can remain anonymous and still receive a reward by calling (706-253-8922).
Tips can also be sent on-line by visiting the Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page. Detectives are hopeful that someone will provide information that will help solve this case.