By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
The Fort Sumner police chief said he discovered a break-in of his department’s evidence storage area two weeks ago when he spotted a trail of dried marijuana leaves.
Wayne Atchley said dried marijuana plants were stolen May 10 from a batch of about 2,500 plants in the village’s evidence storage area.
There were no signs of forced entry to the exterior of the building, indicating the suspect used a key, he said, gaining entry into the storage area by climbing over its wall through an open ceiling space.
It appears the suspect or suspects had knowledge the marijuana was there because it was the only thing taken, Atchley said. No other evidence was compromised in the theft.
It is not known how many people had keys to the building, a former village armory. The locks had not been changed for about five years, Atchley said.
Since it seems the thief knew about the marijuana and had a key, Atchley said he asked state police to handle the case.
“(I asked them to investigate) so nobody could come back and say it was a cover-up,” he said.
The marijuana, evidence from a 2005 Guadalupe County case, was being held at the department as a courtesy because of the lack of space in the other county’s evidence storage facility, Atchley said.
The plants were seized from a field along the Pecos River by the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s department.
Atchley said no arrests have been made to date in connection with the seizure and that he had been trying to get a destruction order for the drugs.
Fort Sumner police kept quiet about storing the marijuana, Atchley said.
He said he has tried to find positive meaning in the break-in.
“If they had to come into our police department and get marijuana that means that my officers were doing their job and keeping drugs off the street,” he said.
“I was very upset about it but we just deal with it and go on,” the 30-year veteran law enforcement officer said of the theft.
Though he is not sure investigators will recover the drugs, he said he is confident the culprit will be apprehended. Atchley has some theories about who might be responsible but said he wants to let the state police conduct their investigation.
He said he could not estimate the street value of the drugs.
State police spokesman Lt. Rick Anglada said his department is conducting an ongoing investigation into the theft.
He confirmed no other evidence was jeopardized by the break-in.
He said he is not sure of the quantity of drugs stolen because a full inventory has not yet been submitted.
Anglada said even 2-year-old marijuana could have strong potency if it had dried thoroughly.