EAST ALTON — Police took two suspected methamphetamine manufacturers into custody Wednesday afternoon, but only after they allegedly tossed a caustic liquid that splashed two officers.
“I have no idea what it was,” Chief Dwynn Isringhausen of the East Alton Police Department said of the unknown, stinging chemical several hours later. “They threw it to destroy it, not to throw it on an officer.”
The East Alton officers were treated at the scene and taken via police patrol car to an area hospital emergency room for treatment of their minor injuries, then released.
Isringhausen said police plan to meet with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office on Thursday to seek charges against the duo.
It was a witness that alerted police to the suspects.
“The department received a call that someone was carrying a bag and going on the levee, which is owned by the Wood River Levee District” and where trespassing is prohibited, he said.
“The officers went to see what was going on and stumbled upon two individuals with a (suspected) portable meth lab,” he said. “It appeared to be active elements for a meth lab that they had taken from the bag.”
The man and woman were near Wood River Creek, he said.
The area is near a bridge holding Union Pacific railroad tracks at the village’s west boundary, south of Illinois Route 3/West St. Louis Avenue. It is southwest of a McDonald’s, Taco Bell and closed Sonic restaurants.
The suspects reportedly had left their vehicle at a parking lot of one of the nearby businesses and walked into the wooded area, prompting the suspicious witness to call police.
When police arrived at the levee, scanner traffic said at least one of the suspects fled into the creek in an attempt to escape authorities in the isolated, wooded, overgrown area. Isringhausen said later in the afternoon that the investigation still was ongoing and he could not confirm that report.
Pfc. Emily Hejna, public information officer at the Alton Police Department, confirmed that East Alton had requested assistance from Alton police during the incident, as it is at Alton’s eastern boundary.
During the incident, an Alton police lieutenant was injured when he stepped on a nail and went to an emergency room for treatment.
After taking the two people into custody, authorities summoned an Illinois State Police Methamphetamine Response Team to come to the scene to recover the suspected drug lab materials and do any necessary cleanup.
Over the years, homeless squatters and passing vagrants have set up camps in the wooded area, but Isringhausen said there has not been a significant problem there lately with such trespassers.
Linda N. Weller may be reached at 618-208-6450 or on Twitter @Linda_Weller.