“A very serious risk to public safety has been averted,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced, adding that “it is particularly distressing that this hazard was caused by a sworn law enforcement officer.”
Meth labs are considered extremely hazardous, as the chemicals used to produce the drug are highly explosive and toxic and can pose serious health risks to those exposed to them.
Walls, a 19-year veteran of the Long Branch Police Department, faces several charges related to manufacturing and operating a methamphetamine production facility. He is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, pending a detention hearing.
Information for his attorney was not available Monday.
Walls was suspended without pay immediately after Long Branch’s acting police chief, Frank Rizzuto, learned of the offenses, prosecutors said.
“It is disappointing beyond measure that one of our officers could have risked the safety of his family and neighbors by engaging in such dangerous conduct,” Rizzuto said in a statement.
Long Branch Mayor John Pallone said Monday that the city’s head of public safety will be filing disciplinary charges to terminate Walls’s employment on the police force. The mayor added that the city had a “no tolerance policy” for illegal activity committed by police officers.
Police were called to the officer’s home Sunday night in the coastal city of Long Branch after a domestic disturbance report. When they arrived, a person identified by authorities as “another resident in the home” told the responding officers that Walls was involved in suspicious narcotics activity, the prosecutor said.
A hazmat unit from the New Jersey State Police was dispatched to the house and found what the prosecutor described as “materials, chemicals and instruments consistent with a methamphetamine laboratory in both the basement of the residence and in a shed on the property.” In addition, police found meth residue in lab glassware at the home.
Officers also discovered an assortment of weapons — including two long guns, eight high-capacity magazines and “a large quantity” of ammunition — in an unsecured safe that was accessible to Walls’s child, the prosecutor’s office said. An investigation found that Walls also had “books related to making methamphetamine,” the prosecutor said.
Walls, 50, faces numerous charges, including operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility, risking widespread injury and possession of methamphetamine.
He also faces charges related to endangering the welfare of a child.
If convicted of operating a meth lab, he could face 20 years in prison, the prosecutor’s office said.
“We make no distinction between an officer or someone from the general public; if you break the law we are going to prosecute you,” Charles Webster, public information officer for the prosecutor, told The Washington Post.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system and can be medically prescribed in small doses to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obesity.
The drug can easily be made in small clandestine labs with inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cold medication.
Data collected in 2019 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine have steadily increased over the past decade.