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Cops trim grass with choppers

A team of town and county law enforcement officers and members of the National Guard Counter Drug Interdiction Team trimmed the “grass” in Archuleta County last week, seizing about 25, four-foot tall, mature marijuana plants and about 20 seedlings following an aerial operation over Archuleta County Aug. 19.

Archuleta County Sheriff’s Department staff estimated the marijuana to have a street value of $10,000 to $15,000.

The operation began at 8 a.m., when two National Guard choppers lifted off from Stevens Field in an attempt to locate illegal marijuana growing operations or other illegal drug activity that could be viewed from the air.

About 3 p.m., according to law enforcement reports, sheriff’s department staff noticed a suspicious residence on County Road 335 south of Pagosa Springs that had large bay windows filled with what appeared to be marijuana plants. The helicopter team then contacted a ground crew led by town/county narcotics officer Det. T.J. Fitzwater who, with Deputy Alvin Schaaf from the sheriff’s department, went to the residence to investigate.

Upon their arrival, officers noted the front door open as though the resident had left the house quickly. Fitzwater reported that no one responded from inside the residence.

As Schaaf and Fitzwater checked the exterior of the house, Schaaf located a shed-like structure with a power cord and numerous water hoses and drip lines outside. The shed also had numerous windows and a clear plastic roof. Fitzwater noted the scent of marijuana emanating from the shed and a look through the shed’s windows revealed as many as 25 marijuana plants about four-feet tall and two-feet in diameter, plus another 20 marijuana seedlings.

After inspecting the contents of the shed, Fitzwater then examined the plants deputies had viewed from the air, determining they were not marijuana.

Law enforcement officials obtained a search warrant and seized the marijuana plants from inside the shed. In addition, a search of the residence yielded two more pounds of marijuana — a one-pound bag in the kitchen freezer and another one-pound bag in the bedroom.

Deputies discovered paperwork in the home linking the residence to Alex Barrows. The name matched the name and address linked to the owner of the pickup truck parked in the residence’s driveway.

Although Barrows was not home at the time the search warrant was executed, Fitzwater left notification for Barrows to contact law enforcement.

On Aug. 20, Barrows turned himself in to law enforcement, and he was arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation.

According to law enforcement reports, Barrows denied growing the marijuana for sale and said it was only for personal use, as a pain reliever for a medical problems.

Barrows could soon face two felony charges — a felony, class 4 for cultivation, and a class five felony for possession of marijuana over eight ounces.