MEXIA, Texas Two Limestone County Sheriff’s deputies who were hospitalized are back on-duty after they say they got sick during a child welfare check, launching drug and theft investigations.
At the request of Texas Child Protective Services, the deputies were checking on a three-year-old at a home in the 900 block of LCR 463 in Mexia.
“Once the deputies made their entrance up toward the house, they began to smell the smell of marijuana very strongly, they made contact with the occupants of the house and were also able to view the child,” said Sheriff Dennis Wilson. "Immediately, they began to have side effects of the environment."
The reported side effects included dizziness, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and lightheadedness.
The deputies pulled over and called a supervisor before being transported to Limestone Medical Center for treatment.
“I’ll compliment the officers for them being able to recognize that they were in trouble health-wise and they were able to get away from that house,” said Wilson.
The deputies were released a few hours later, however, Wilson warned it could have been much worse had his deputies not reacted the way they did.
“You have to have the snap to get in and get out without it grossly affecting you, or possibly death,” said Wilson.
While police receive a lot of training on looking for ‘bad guys,’ Wilson said his deputies also receive training on looking for ‘bad things’ which aren’t as obvious, like being exposed to harmful and illegal substances.
"As peace officers we train for a number of scenarios that we may face when we're out on the street," said Wilson. "Once you get into this type of environment where you have the unknown and you walk into it unprepared, the outcome could be deadly for anyone that goes into that."
After the deputies were hospitalized, additional sheriff's investigators stepped-in to take over the growing case and Limestone County Attorney Roy DeFriend was called right away; Wilson said he helped them prepare a search warrant which was signed by a judge around 3:30am and executed shortly thereafter.
“It was definitely out of the ordinary,” DeFriend said about the timing and situation.
During the search, deputies found and seized illegal narcotics and drug paraphernalia, “a large quantity” of long guns, pistols, two police scanners, and a surveillance system, according to deputies.
"They're very 'up to par' on how to protect their environment and the illegal things that they do," said Wilson. “It’s not uncommon to see that when we go out in these type of narcotic investigations, particularly when you deal with dealers and they want to protect their turf and not allow the police to sneak-up on ‘em,” said Wilson.
CPS responded to the scene and removed the toddler from the home.
"The poor little (child) had no business in that type of environment," said Wilson. “That is not the proper environment for children to be raised in."
Bryan Keith Watson and Markie Rae Baker were subsequently arrested and booked into the Limestone County Detention Center.
Both Watson and Baker were charged with endangering a child, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marijuana.
They were released after posting $10,000 bonds later that day.
“It just shows what drugs can do to people and kids,” said DeFriend.
Additional charges may be on the way for the couple; during the drug investigation, deputies said they recovered possible stolen property in connection with two separate theft incidents in Groesbeck and Mexia.
The child remains in CPS custody pending an upcoming hearing, which has to happen within 14 days of the incident, according to officials.
Wilson said his agency sees (and is already using) this case as a teaching device.
"This particular incident was a great training tool for us because it allows us to say 'partnership is critical' in what we do in law enforcement," said Wilson.
The Sheriff and many his deputies attended a 9/11 remembrance service Tuesday.
"They're heroes," said Wilson.
Wilson said the brave men and women who ran toward danger to save others that day continue to inspire his agency and leadership.
"I'm very proud that I wear a badge and a gun just like the New Yorkers that went into those burning buildings...and I would expect the same thing here," said Wilson.
“We’re all about service, we’re all about our citizens and protection, and we want to be running into the buildings, we're not running away from the buildings."
While on a far lesser scale than 9/11, Wilson said he’s proud of his deputies for doing their job by going into the house knowing the potential dangers that came with it.
"That's the way my men and women who work here are, they don't hesitate to do their job," said Wilson.
"I'm very proud of what goes on here at the Sheriff's Office, and I'm very proud of law enforcement all over America."