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Littering leads to large meth seizure

A can of energy drink thrown from a car two month ago led police to a suspected meth dealer who faces numerous felony drug, police said.

Juan Manuel Salazar, 24, popped up on Medford police radar on Feb. 27 when he was driving on East Jackson Street with a passenger who decided to fling a Monster energy drink can out the window.

Little did the pair know that a Medford detective in an unmarked patrol car was close behind. The detective was not tailing the car at the time the drink can flew out the window, Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson said.

"The detective stopped the car because of a simple act of littering," Johnson said.

The detective found that Salazar was driving without a license and his passenger was on probation for drug sales convictions. Salazar also had $2,348 in cash in his wallet, which the detective thought was suspicious, Johnson said.

A search dog was called to the car stop and it alerted officers to something suspicious in the trunk area. The dog's reaction allowed the officers to seize the car to be searched later. However, there was not enough evidence at that time to keep Salazar detained, so he was released.

A few days later, Medford police were granted a warrant to search the car. Police said that hidden in a bag in the trunk were nearly 5 ounces of methamphetamine and several high-dollar electronic items, including an iPad, iPod and a MacBook computer.

A warrant for Salazar's arrest was issued and police were looking for him until Thursday.

Investigators finally spotted Salazar on Thursday driving a car on Truax Road just north of Central Point.

The officers lost the vehicle for a short time, but later saw it parked next to a business in Medford. Salazar was seen near the vehicle and was taken into custody.

A search dog was called to the vehicle and once again indicated drugs might be inside. Johnson said a search of the vehicle turned up a bag with nearly 5 ounces of methamphetamine, scales, packaging, a stun gun and $1,989 in cash, believed to be drug sales proceeds.

Finding nearly 5 ounces of meth on Salazar in two separate stops suggests he is a big player in the local drug scene, Johnson said.

"This is a guy who seems to be getting it by the half pound," Johnson said.

Salazar is a known associate of the local Sureno street gang, Johnson said.

Johnson said police might not have caught onto Salazar's dealings had it not been for his passenger littering.

"Man litters, man gets busted for methamphetamine," Johnson said. "It's funny how it worked out, but it's now a pretty good meth case."

Salazar has been lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of delivery, manufacture and possession of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of a restricted weapon and failure to appear in court.

He remains jailed on $505,000 bail.