DPS: Traffic stop becomes hazmat scene, drug bust

NORTH MONTGOMERY COUNTY- A routine traffic stop by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper turned into a hazmat scene on Interstate 45 northbound near Shepard Hill Rd. around 1 p.m. on Monday.

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Trooper Kenneth Balzekas stopped a 1999 Plymouth van for a traffic violation and discovered what turned out to be 43 pounds of marijuana wrapped and sealed inside the vehicle, according to Sgt. Terry Barnhill. When Balzekas opened the packaged contraband, he found an unknown substance wrapped in an outside layer of plastic, which was cause for alarm. Barnhill said police in other areas have encountered an insidious new method of attack by drug dealers.

“It’s a big trend – the cartels have started wrapping their marijuana and sealing it, then putting a substance around it which used to be axle grease or petroleum to throw the dogs off the scent,” he said. “But now they’re putting toxic chemicals in there that react to the air and expose the officer.”

If the officer collapses, the suspect has time to flee, he said.

“We thought there was possibly a chemical wrapped with the marijuana,” Barnhill said. “We called the Conroe Fire Department’s Hazmat team, who determined it was not a hazardous material.”

The substance was placed in a machine that recognizes different chemicals, he said, and it ruled out all of them. It was then assumed the substance was instead something meant to disguise the scent from a K-9 unit.

While such incidents have yet to occur in Texas, it is likely only a matter of time and DPS is not taking any chances. Barnhill said his agency was grateful to the Conroe Fire Department for their response. The North Montgomery County Fire Department assisted CFD.

Michael-Paul Oliver Boutin, 27, of (last known address) Cummings, GA, was charged with third-degree felony possession of marijuana, more than 5 lbs. but less than 50 lbs.

Public Data shows Boutin’s only prior offenses as forgery and disorderly conduct, which occurred in Minnesota.

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