The Lowertown neighbourhood is populated by a number of U of O students. Photo: Kyle Darbyson.
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Residents believe chemicals could have posed serious threat to building

On Sunday, Feb. 26, Ottawa police arrested a 40-year-old man following the discovery of a methamphetamine laboratory in his apartment at 345 Barber Street, located a stone’s throw away from the University of Ottawa’s Friel residence in Lowertown.

According to Ottawa police, Laurence Wheatcroft was charged with producing a schedule one substance and possessing chemicals to be used to produce a schedule one substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act 7.1(2)

Ottawa police originally went to Wheatcroft’s apartment following a request by concerned family members. Police arrived at the apartment just before 10 p.m. on Feb. 26, and noticed a strong chemical odour as they approached Wheatcroft’s apartment on the fourth floor of the building.

Following Wheatcroft’s arrest, police began a disposal process of the drugs in the apartment, which concluded around 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday. According to Ottawa police, the lengthy process was attributed to the tenant’s hoarding lifestyle.

The Fulcrum spoke to some tenants of 345 Barber Street, who were faced with yellow police tape and police cars as they tried to enter their building on Feb. 26.

In an interview with the Fulcrum, Emilie Hughes, a second-year nursing student at the University of Ottawa who is a resident of the building, said that she arrived home around midnight and was greeted by a fireman and a police officer.

“I asked them what was going on (and) can I go in, and then (a police officer) told me flat-out, no filters, ‘we found a meth lab on the fourth floor,’” said Hughes, who was shocked to hear the news.

“The police said I could have stayed there, but I just didn’t want to,” said Hughes, who ended up going to her aunt’s house to spend the night.

Hughes also said that she read on CTV News that “there were so many chemicals that only one police officer could fit in at one time … this individual was living there, you’d think that it’s not even good for us to live there. How did he survive living in his apartment?”

Hughes said that she no longer wishes to live in her apartment building or in the area, which is populated by many U of O students. To students currently looking for apartments, Hughes cautions, “Do your best to find something safe.”

The Fulcrum also spoke to Melissa Salisbury, a U of O alumna and Barber resident, who said she was kept in the dark about the meth lab despite having asked a police officer outside the building what had happened.

According to Salisbury, she didn’t find out all the details about the incident until the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 28 through a co-worker.

Salisbury said it’s often difficult to catch onto issues like these before they happen now, because “everyone is concerned with themselves, and not concerned with the people around them … we just need to be more attentive on who comes in the building or what’s coming into the building.”

The Fulcrum also reached out to the Ottawa Police Service and spoke to Constable Chuck Benoit, who was unable to provide any new information on the case as it is still being investigated.

However, according to an Ottawa police press release, residents of 345 Barber Street can rest easy now that the Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) Hazmat confirmed that there was no explosive hazard present at the apartment. Furthermore, the OPP clandestine laboratory response team, OFS Hazmat, and Ottawa paramedic services’ drug unit investigators also cleared the apartment of any hazardous chemicals.