Last Updated: 9:17 p.m.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly was part of what he described as a “high-risk” warrant search that included a SWAT operation in the Mondex, or Daytona North, this morning, and that uncovered an apparent methamphetamine lab on a sprawling, 2.5-acre property.
The search was conducted at 2345 Blueberry Street, netting the arrest of five people–six, including one who happened by the scene and was arrested on an unrelated issue. Authorities discovered an elaborate operation that included a watch tower, trap doors and the use of firearms as deterrent.
“The reason we classified it as a high risk is because we knew the house was full of meth users,” Staly said in an interview this evening, “so they’d be in an altered state of mind. We also knew there were weapons in the house. Through our surveillance we discovered they had a watchtower and would occasionally walk around the property with long rifles, and if they heard a noise they’d start firing guns in the nearby woods. We also knew they had trap doors in the floors in some of the buildings in there where they’d hide when law enforcement would come around. So we knew it was high risk going in.”
Both the Flagler and St. Johns swat teams were activated, both took part in the search. No one was hurt and no guns were fired. Residents did hear what may sounded like a gun. “We did not fire any shots, Staly said. “We did explode a flash bang to disorient two aggressive dogs that were coming at us. The only other alternative was to have shot the dogs.” Deputies did not want to do that.
“I witnessed the entire team but I stayed back to not interfered with the SWAT team that trains and practices every week for this kind of operations,” Staly said. “So I was there right at the property line monitoring everything. Myself and Chief [Paul] Bovino maintained the front perimeter while the SWAT team was actually moving through the back of the property. The deputies did a great job. Both agencies. We were able to secure all the suspects without any problems.”
The suspects are: Gage Ryan Watts, 23, of 2026 Hickory Street in Bunnell, who was charged with methamphetamine sale, a second-degree felony; Amanda Parker, 29, of 2345 Blueberry Street charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Anthony Scott Pezza, 18, same address, same charge; John Driggers of Bunnell, charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; and Kenneth Driggers of Bunnell, same charge plus manufacturing meth.
Charles Cowart, 34, of 11361 County Road 305 in Bunnell, was among the six arrested and mentioned in the sheriff’s release this evening, but Cowart was not actually part of the group in the meth house: he had driven up to the property and essentially inquired about what was going on. Deputies, either recognizing him or running his name through their databases, discovered he had an outstanding warrant, unrelated to the meth house. He was arrested on that, his bond having been revoked on a use of drug paraphernalia charge.
The suspects were generally compliant after they were “overwhelmed” by deputies. “Obviously they were not expecting it, but they were already up, a couple were in the backyard, they had fires and pots going, with some of the material they use to make meth,” Staly said.
The search warrant was the culmination of an undercover operation carried out on June 27 when Watts sold meth to a sheriff’s confidential source. The transaction took place inside the house on Blueberry Street as Watts allegedly sold crystal-like substances to the source for $50. The crystals turned out to be .45 grams of meth.
A search warrant was secured, and today’s extensive search by deputies and other authorities revealed three “shake and bake” meth labs on the property, along with three shotguns, a rifle, and parts of various firearms. Meth labs are extremely dangerous and required the assistance of Flagler County Fire Rescue’s decontamination units to neutralize.
It’s not clear whether drugs were yet recovered, though the warrant service was followed by extensive search operation.
“My understanding is there were approximately nine out-buildings on that property on a 2.5 acre lot,” Cmdr. Bob Weber of the Sheriff’s Office said, “and they’re systematically going through each one of those structures on the property, so they’re going to be out there a while.”
“This was a residence that our District 3 patrol deputies discovered as a possible drug house and they passed along information to our investigators who quickly moved in and gathered enough information for a search warrant,” Staly was quoted as saying in a release issued this evening. “I’m thankful no one was hurt during this operation and that we were able to shut down this meth lab,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “If you think you can manufacture and sell drugs in Flagler County you’re seriously mistaken, we’re coming after you. I still have plenty of room available at the Green Roof Inn.” Staly is fond of referring to the county jail by the nickname he gave it.
The reason we clasiifed it as a high risk is bec we knew the house was full of meth users, so they;d be in an altered state of mind. We also knew there were weapons in the house. Through our surveilklance wed discovered they had a watchtower and would occasionally walk around the property with long rifl;es, and if they heard a nhoise they’d start firing guns in the nearby eoods. We also knew they had trap doors in the floors in some of the buildings in there wgere they’d hide when law enforcement would come around. So we knew it was high risk going in.”
Both the Flagler and St. Johns swat teams were activated, and the area was divided up for the search.
I was there I witnessed the entire team but I stayed back to not interfered with the SWAT team that trains and practices every week for this kind of operations., so I was there right at trhe property line monitoring everything. Myself and Chief Bovino maintained the frontg poerminter while the SWAT team was actually moving through the back of the property.The deputies did a great job. Both agencies. We were able to securte all the suspects without any [problems.”
We did not fire any shots, we did explode a flash bang to disorient two aggressive dogs that were coming at us. The only other alternative was to have shot the dogs.”
The suspects were generally compoiuant, I think we overwhelmed them coming in,a nd tobviously they were not expecting it, but they were already up, a couple were in the backyard, they had fires and piots going, with some of the material they use to make meth.”
“We recovered materials and I believe that we recovered some meth.”
We used tactical cautions to make sure there wouldn;t be undue explosionst.
A neighbor witnessed many of the proceedings at the property before it was shielded from view. The neighbor was woken up by the sound of helicopters and the sight of deputies in camouflage, who told the person to quickly get back in the house.
“This morning I bet you they had at least a dozen of them down on the ground,” the neighbor said after being asked how many people lived at the property in question, which contains a trailer and the surrounding out-buildings. “So at any given time, who knows, and I did see kids in that mess, too.”
The neighbor was woken up by the commotion around 8 a.m. The neighbor was familiar with previous issues, having been burglarized around the time of Hurricane Matthew. “I was evacuated during Matthew. When I came home, I was cleaned out,” the neighbor said. Some of the stolen items were recovered. The neighbor said today’s was the second warrant service at that property since Hurricane Matthew.
“We’ve been watching this group for a while,” the neighbor said, describing frequent and varied traffic in and out of the property and the found of firearms late at night.
“It appears like they really planned a major drug bust and they’re still active right now,” the neighbor said around 1:30 this afternoon, referring to deputies. But the activity was not visible. “They’ve got shields all the way around that, and a canopy up. The road is not open for anybody going back there.”
The neighbor added: “We’re really impressed with the sheriff’s department taking care of that for us. We’ll do what we can to help them.”
Just after noon today, several Flagler County Fire Rescue units were dispatched to the property on Blueberry Street for decontamination of the property.
Watts was evicted from the property on County Road 305 on March 24 after facing eviction proceedings. He’d failed to pay $1,500 by early February for the trailer he rented there, according to an eviction notice filed in Flagler County court.
He was arrested for drunk driving and fleeing the scene of a crash in which he was involved exactly a year ago, after crashing a Dodge pick-up against a utility pole at 20 Riverina Drive in Palm Coast and fleeing through the property’s backyard. He was quickly apprehended, charged with DUI, hit and run and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage. The latter two charges were dropped in a deal that had him plead guilty to drunk driving. He was sentenced to a year’s probation, starting last October. His arrest today constitutes a violation of probation.
Two years ago with was charged with domestic violence battery after getting in a fight with his brother. The charge was dropped.
Komodo Dragon says
Good work FCSO.
john dolan says
Welcome to the Mondex. Florida for real Floridians. Don’t drink the water.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
When it comes to these scumbags, it is actually a small percentage of the people who live here. Most of us are here because we like the fresh air and some room away from adjacent homes. Once the sheriffs office gets rid of the rest of the dirtbags, this is actually a great place to live. And with the huge increase of property values, lowlifes are less and less able to live here. But “hopefully” you will remain where you are in palm coast…Should have just stayed where you came from and you still can.
Have a nice day.
Peggy Noonan says
Fantastic job F.C.S.O.. Keep up the great work!!
South Florida says
Good job Sheriff Staly. Finally things are happening.
One down a thousand to go. Good work sheriff
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Pretty false comment there. The percentage of losers here are not what you claim.
With the price increases on home values here one would most likely need to have a decent job to buy a home here now. There is always Palm Coast..where you can spit at your neighbors home and hit it…lol
Sweet .glad to see fcso is getting this shit out of here..keep u the awesome work staly n fcso
Carolyn Cass-Larmore says
Awesome Job by our Sheriff’s Dept!!! Thank you Sheriff Staly for all you , your staff, & officers do to tackle these difficult problems in our County! You are All Heroes!
Real Floridians don’t live in Mondex, It is made up of people who moved to Flagler co. from somewhere else. I’m sure you yourself has moved to Fagler co. from somewhere else…
The faces of meth…
There are at least 2500 people living in the Mondex. Most of us are just normal people, but unfortunately, the location and dynamics of the way it is out here (cost, privacy) attracts the unsavory. People think all folks from Mondex are this way, but in truth, most of us are VERY happy to see the action that has been taken to rid the area of this type of behavior. A big thank you to FCSO.
As far as real Floridians living in the Mondex, well, when I was a child, there were only about 13,000 people living in all of Flagler County. We have over 100,000 now, and I have a feeling that some significant percentage of them are not “real Floridians,” and certainly those non-Floridians are not all living in the Mondex. :)
Great job Sheriff. Now if our courts will support you and lock these people up for a few years, life will be good. If not, they will be out, move and start up another meth lab.
Trailer Bob says
The vast majority of the folks out here are decent working people. My wife and I are educated, self-employed, and involved in our community. Nothing like a quiet night full of stars and the sound of roosters. Because it is very rural, you will have people who come out here to cook drugs or grow weed. The later not a problem, just older potheads doing their thing in the privacy of their homes. I am glad Staly is going after the lowlifes, as most of us would like to see them all be gone, one way or another. There are also certain areas, like anywhere, that the scumbags end up. None on my dead end street, just friendly and helpful neighbors. Have a nice day in the rat rate of the city…lol
BREAKING BAD………….Mondex style !
Okay see this is ridiculous, ya’ll condemn mondex cause it’s not Palm coast. There’s meth addicts running meth labs in Palm Coast too. Where do you think all the meth heads bought meth since these idiots got busted, so drop your better than thou bullshit.
What is really messed up is that we can’t get circumstantial warrants for raids on the other dozen meth houses. Cause you know them junkies got the offer to give up 10 names to avoid prison….i mean isn’t that what the junkies around here are known for, ratting each other out. Why stop with one raid? If FCSO needs volunteers to go clean up the meth problem start a sign up sheet I’d be happy to help, I can even help get you more targets just don’t let them come back. Clean up our streets stop releasing them.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Living in most areas in Palm Coast is like living in an apartment where you can spit at and hit your neighbors house. They are mostly from up north…New York, Mass, CT, New. Jersey, etc.
We moved OUT of Connecticut to get away from all the traffic and houses on top of each other, though we owned and lived in a beautiful home and a large beautiful property. We, for a good part, left to get away from all the liberals and increases in crime. We are very happy living right here in the “Mondex” now. And with the increase of home values out here in Daytona North, most will need a little change in in their pockets to purchase a home out here. And things are only improving here, as more and more decent people arrive here.
Also, can we petition the county to seize the property and level the meth house?
another resident of the house was just arrested for “out of county warrant”…
house full of winners right there
Dick tracy says
Coward has been arrested 3 dozen times. And for some serious crimes. Let’s hold the court systems accountable for allowing these losers to stay on the streets and give them 3,4,5,36 chances
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Right On! The courts are too lenient.
There is no doubt this bust came from someone ratting someone else out to get out of prison time……it’s too bad we see more cops pulling people over on 302 for going over 45 mph than there are making busts on their own. Knowing how much drugs are a problem out there seems like law enforcement would be more concerned at be watchful of problem rather than sitting parked watching traffic and making senseless traffic stops. The GPS system says the speed limit on 302 is 55, the county changed it and is pulling cars over even though the information is conflicting…….now they know!
Although I am not a fan of Charles Cowart and his lengthy list of arrests within the past 10 or so years I have to say it was very misleading to put his mugshot in the middle of the meth lab arrestee, especially given the title of this article… Granted, he was arrested on the street of the bust because he stopped to ask the police what was going on and had a warrant (completely his fault, no doubt).
I’m not defending him, I’m simply stating that anyone who sees his face at the top article will automatically assume he is a part of this bust which doesn’t appear to be true. Yes, your article does state why and where he got arrested, just seems in poor taste in my opinion. He’s already earned an atrocious reputation, why lump him into this? I feel sorry for his family… I really do.
Karma, you’re absolutely right. The picture has been changed. Thank you.
Not necessarily! Not everyone is shitty in the mondex either! It’s become such a different place
The perfect story of the results of a snitch….not of police searching out crime and stopping it. This has been going on for so long that it is sad that it has taken so long for it to be stopped. This is just the tip of the ice berg. Now lets see what FCSO can do without a snitch.
Katie Semore says
Good job by the sheriff’s office. I am sure that the people that lived nearby are glad to know that this scum is now shut down and hopefully on their way to prison. See something, say something. If the community gets involved, they can improve their lot and make it a nicer place to live and raise their children. With luck this criminals will spend a lot time behind bars.
They wouldn’t be able to do shit , they depend on these snitches to do there work so they don’t have to work so hard, and also they let the snitch go with a reduced sentence so they can get back out on the streets and use again!!!
Concerned Observer says
GREAT JOB FCSO! Thank you. I love the way cum bag criminals refer to “Snitches” in the above comments as if they were some sort of lowlife. If you see something – say something. Citizens reporting crimes to the authorities are to be revered not reviled. (Note to scumbags: Have someone that can read explain the difference between revered and reviled.) There should be a hole under the Sherriff’s “Green Roof Hotel” for these low-life scumbags. They are a plague on our county and its citizens. We deserve protection from them until they learn the proper way to live in a civilized community, and I do not care if their time spent in jail is uncomfortable. Learn from it!