A Gorham man who was previously arrested in May of this year on the charge of operating of a methamphetamine laboratory was arrested again Sunday after he was found outside of a Gorham church allegedly in the process of producing the illegal drug.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, at about noon Gorham police officers responded to the area of the First Parish Congregational Church in Gorham following a call from a concerned citizen about a man suspected of conducting drug deals, according to a Monday Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) press release.
Officers located the suspect, 37-year-old Matthew Cole of Durham, outside of the church. He was free on bail related to pending drug, theft, and firearm charges.
Cole was observed to be in the possession of several backpacks, bags, and other items which the officers recognized as “one pot methamphetamine laboratories,” a portable and highly dangerous way to produce the drug in a shorter amount of time than traditional methods.
The one pot labs were in the active stages of producing methamphetamine next to the church’s outside walls, and police evacuated the area due to “the extreme chance of explosion or fire.”
Cole was then arrested for the possession of approximately 27 grams of methamphetamine, the Unlawful Operation of a Methamphetamine Laboratory, and Violation of Conditional Release.
He was taken to the Cumberland County Jail.
Following his arrest, the Gorham Fire Department responded to the scene to monitor the laboratories until the arrival of the MDEA Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team (CDLET), a team with specialized training in mitigating the hazards of fire and explosion associated with meth labs.
The CDLET team arrived to the scene equipped with fire retardant suits and respirators and collected evidence from the laboratories.
The toxic byproducts of the labs were turned over to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for destruction.
According to MDEA, one pot meth lab responses have become less frequent in Maine due to the “ever-increasing availability of crystal methamphetamine from the South West border.”
The agency responded to 52 such laboratories in 2018, 35 in 2019, eight in 2020, two in 2021, zero in 2022, and four so far in 2023.
Crystal meth seizures in Maine have risen dramatically in recent years, from 3 kg in 2021 to 72 kg in 2022.
In a recent meeting with U.S. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, Republican U.S. Senator from Maine Susan Collins called the rise in crystal meth seizures “incredibly shocking.”
So far in 2023, there have been a total of 7,538 drug overdoses in Maine, with 462 of those overdoses being fatal, according to the most recent state statistics.