A pair of men's pants and a wallet found in the back of a stolen van led Petaluma police to a local man well known to officers and launched a day-long investigation into a possible mobile drug lab.
Suspect Michael Innocencio, 30, was found sleeping Tuesday morning in his mother's car. It was parked at a Magnolia Avenue apartment complex, Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano said Wednesday.
It was his wallet found in a pants pocket of the trousers found in the back of the van. The van had disappeared during the night from a Petaluma Boulevard North business.
Officers have crossed paths with Innocencio multiple times, Savano said, and knew he might at the nearby apartment complex.
While a suspect in the van theft, that remains under investigation and he was arrested on a $10,000 burglary warrant.
But then the incident grew more complicated when items found in the car appeared to parts of a mobile methamphetamine drug lab.
That included a large Gatorade bottle filled with a liquid that had separated, forming a solid material at the top. A book of matches and a battery were in the bottle, which was sealed with a radiator cap, the sergeant said.
And there were flammable chemicals known to be used for making meth. Due to the volatility of some of the agents and the possibility of noxious vapors, officers cleared people from a portion of the parking lot. They then backed off and waited for Petaluma firefighters and members of the Sonoma County DEA task force to investigate.
A Lake County drug task force agent trained to dispose of clandestine drug labs also responded, Savano said.
Wearing protective full-body suits in the searing afternoon heat, investigators retrieved the items. They determined whatever intended for, they hadn't resulted in a batch of meth, Savano said.
A certified disposal company disposed of the items and the incident was wrapped up by about 5 p.m.
While Innocencio was being booked into the Sonoma County Jail a small baggie of powder suspected of being meth was found in one of his shoes. Officers also arrested him on suspicion of possessing the drugs, a felony.
Savano asked anyone with information about the stolen van to contact Detective Brian Miller at 778-4456 or with an anonymous tip at 877-TIPS-247.