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MINT finds pot in woods, but no suspects

Task force secures 176 mature plants from Willow Flat area, but marijuana grows seems to be decreasing in county

October 8, 2005

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler tailed a truck full of leafy green bushes through city streets on Wednesday.

The vehicle wasn’t carrying common garden stock.

It was filled with 176 mature marijuana plants that had just been harvested from an illegal grow operation.

Wampler had helped carry the evidence out of a forest in the Willow Flat area. And he had made sure the evidence was secured for a case with no known suspects.

Wampler and the Mid-Columbia Interagency Narcotics Taskforce (MINT) were disappointed by the lack of an arrest.

They believed the individual responsible for planting the cannabis might have been scared away by common knowledge of its discovery.

According to an undercover officer, the citizen who unexpectedly came across the marijuana plants, which ranged in height from 5 to 8 feet, openly shared that information.

“We believe there is a strong possibility that we lost a suspect because this became so public,” said the frustrated MINT member.

He urged citizens who happen upon a grow to exercise discretion and immediately call the MINT tipline at 387-7034.

Wampler is feeling heartened that the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the county appears to be dramatically lower this year. During 2005, deputies and MINT have netted fewer than 500 marijuana plants, far below the 2,000 plant average.

Wampler contends the heightened focus on stopping the drug trade in Hood River County is paying off. In recent years, he has stepped up the flight program to search out grows from the sky, and MINT has established a comprehensive network of informants.

“Drugs are literally the root of all evil so we are very diligent about acting on any information that we are given,” said Wampler.

He said fighting the battle against drug dealers is important because 90 percent of all crimes are tied to use of an illicit substance or alcohol abuse.

Last week, MINT scored the arrest of a father and son who were allegedly selling methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana to local buyers.

Ascencio Solis Gordian, 56, and his 30-year-old son, Rosario Gordian Cruz, were jailed after officers searched the farm worker cabin along Thomsen Road where the senior member of the family resided.

A small cache of drugs was reported found under his bed and in his dresser drawer.

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