A pastor is leaving the Morning Star Community Church in Hamlin, W.Va., after lending the church's bus to police officers making a meth lab bust. Chris Wilkinson, who also happens to be Hamlin's mayor and police chief, told the Associated Press that he is resigning because some church members were unhappy with his decision to loan out the bus last week. He says he has no regrets and would do it again.
Authorities made three arrests. According to WSAZ, deputies said the culprits were working in a shake-and-bake lab set up inside a house in Little Harts Creek. Lincoln County chief sheriff's deputy J.J. Napier told the Associated Press that the bus allowed the nine officers involved in the raid to take the suspects by surprise. Calls to the Sheriff's Department's Anonymous Tip Line tipped off the police.
"Rumor had it that people living at the mouth of the holler were calling them people living up in the holler, telling them that the police were coming," Wilkinson told WOWK TV.
And this isn't the first time that the bus was used to enforce the law. State police officers used it just a few months ago to arrest nine suspects, Wilkinson told WOWK TV. The church members made no fuss at the time. “I just assumed since they didn't care that time, that they wouldn't care for me doing it again,” Wilkinson said.
Meth production has become a problem for West Virginia, the Associated Press noted; statewide, authorities have seized more than 300 meth labs since January. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, clandestine methamphetamine laboratory activity in West Virginia, which has been very high, decreased due to state and federal laws regulating the sale of precursors. Repeated use of meth can lead to addiction, extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior.
The bus was paid for by bake sales and other church activities, Wilkinson said, and used by the congregation to go Christmas caroling. In the near future, he hopes to purchase the bus from the church. After attendance at the community church began to drop — even before the meth lab bust — he had begun to consider hitting the road.
Wilkinson has held the $150-per-month pastor position at the Morning Star Community Church for 10 years.