Storage unit auction yields rocket launcher, drugs

  • This photo, provided by the Hadley Police Department, shows weapons recovered from a Hadley storage unit on Monday. Contributed Photo

For the Recorder
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

HADLEY — A significant amount of what is believed to be methamphetamine, along with a spent shoulder-fire rocket launcher and an unsecured shotgun, were recovered from a storage unit on Route 9 during an hours-long incident Monday afternoon, according to Hadley police.

Because of the possible presence of both drugs and weapons, the response included a State Police Bomb Squad and the regional hazardous materials team, which were called in to assist Hadley police officers and firefighters.

Police Chief Michael Mason said his department was contacted at 11:53 a.m. by a manager at Stuff-It Storage, 222 Russell St., whose employees were preparing to auction the contents of a unit and saw the weapons.

When Hadley police officers got to the scene, they saw the unloaded, but unsecured, shotgun, another item which appeared to be a rocket launcher, and several plastic containers with an unknown substance.

The officers contacted the bomb squad and the Department of Fire Services Hazardous Materials Response team, Mason said.

Mason said a police detective then wrote a search warrant that, once approved, allowed investigators to go through the items in the storage unit.

No ammunition for either item was discovered and the launcher is considered inert, Mason said.

The white crystaline substance in several plastic containers in the unit is suspected to be methamphetamine, Mason said. A laboratory is testing the substance.

“It’s a fairly large quantity of methamphetamine,” Mason said.

Mason said all items that are considered contraband were removed. “Everything potentially illegal was seized,” Mason said.

Police are now trying to identify the owner of the unit, though Mason said it has been a challenge so far to track that person down. The owner could face charges related to the drugs, including both possession and possibly trafficking, and possibly for having unsecured weapons stored in the unit.

Mason said any weapons, even in a storage unit, must be properly secured, pointing to the state law that requires weapons to be kept in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock, meaning the weapon can only be used by its owner or someone authorized to use the owner’s weapon.

He acknowledged it’s uncertain if the rocket launcher, since it is typically used just once to shoot out a projectile, can still be classified as a weapon. Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson, who serves on the regional hazardous material team, said it was prudent for Hadley police to have the team respond.

“It was a smart thing for them to call,” Nelson said.