The normally low-key and non-confrontational duties of a Panther Creek Park ranger veered sharply from the norm Friday evening with a serious, chase-related crash, a 4-pound marijuana bust, a large cash seizure and the confiscation of a firearm, events far more common outside the park boundaries, according to authorities.
In addition to the haul of marijuana and $10,096 in cash, Caleb A. West, 18, Sequoyah Drive, allegedly was holding 236 marijuana vape cartridges, highly potent marijuana resin and dabs, nine meprobamate pills, an anti-anxiety drug, and paraphernalia, according to Lt. Gene Watson, who leads narcotics investigations for the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department.
West remained in the Hamblen County Jail this morning in lieu of $250,000 bond. Hunter Gibson, a female passenger in West’s vehicle, was admitted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. She was in a regular room this morning, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The series of events that led to the drug bust began about as routinely as possible – park ranger Jacob Mayfield approached West’s vehicle because it parked in the wrong direction of the divided roadway near the overlook. The contact escalated rapidly after Mayfield spotted a Mason jar containing marijuana in the passenger-side floorboard, and West sped away, according to a warrant.
The defendant lost control of his vehicle in a curve. He traveled off the right side of the roadway and collided with a tree. West punched his way through the shattered windshield, left his passenger behind and fled into the woods, according to Mayfield. The park ranger closed the gap and took West into custody following a brief altercation, according to a warrant.
Some of the marijuana was found in a backpack that was tossed from the vehicle prior to the crash. The 9-millimeter handgun was located in the woods.
Both West and Gibson were transported to the Knoxville hospital. West was released after being treated in the emergency room for relatively minor injuries. Trooper John Woods with the Tennessee Highway Patrol charged West with DUI. West reported he had smoked a “s...tload of marijuana and was high as hell,” according to a warrant.
He’s also charged with possession of marijuana for resale, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, illegal possession of a Schedule IV drug, resisting a stop, frisk or halt, failure to obey an officer.