The ongoing investigation into the alleged theft of a golf cart by two firefighters in Pass Christian prompted a search at a Harrison County home, where authorities seized 60 marijuana plants, more than $30,000 in cash and several guns, Pass Christian police Chief Timothy Hendricks said Wednesday.
As a result of the search, authorities arrested William Watts, 43, Wednesday on a charge of marijuana manufacturing. Watts, Hendricks said, is considered a person of interest in the golf cart theft.
The Harrison County Sheriff's Office and agents with the Coastal Narcotics Enforcement Team assisted in that arrest. Watts was taken to the Harrison County jail, with his bond set at $20,000. The marijuana plants were found in what authorities have described as an elaborate marijuana grow room.
"Through the course of the original investigation, we believe this person is somehow involved in the original theft some way," Hendricks said, adding there may be an upgrade in charges against firefighters Jason Hair, 37, and Adam Noble, 34. Both were arrested Tuesday in relation to the Sept. 30 theft of a golf cart on Royal Oaks Boulevard.
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The chief said one of the suspects drove a truck and trailer to the subdivision and loaded up the golf cart. The golf cart, he said, was then taken to another location. The golf cart has since been recovered.
Hair was booked on a charge of grand larceny, and Noble was arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property.
The theft was caught on video in west Pass Christian.
Hendricks said police were able to pull some still images from the tape that assisted in the probe.
Pass Christian and D'Iberville city officials have since placed the two firefighters on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of their own investigation.
Pass Christian and D'Iberville city officials made the decision Tuesday night after the arrests.
Hendricks described the arrests of two firefighters as "sickening to our community," but said his department is committed to "truth and justice" and will continue its investigation. Other charges could be filed, he said, because the probe has become much "broader" than authorities initially thought it would be.
Both firefighters were taken to the Harrison County jail following their arrest. Each bonded out of jail on $10,000 bond. Justice Court Judge Diane Ladner set the bonds.
Noble started part-time in Pass Christian in 2002, and was a full-time firefighter in D'Iberville. Noble has been with the Pass Christian department since May 2002 and is currently a lieutenant.
D'Iberville Fire Chief Gerald Smith confirmed Wednesday that Noble was also placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
"This is a shining example of seemless teamwork across jurisdictions," Hendricks said.
D'Iberville, Waveland and the Long Beach police departments assisted in the investigation along with the Harrison County Sheriff's Office and the coastal narcotics team.
The Sun Herald will update the story as information develops.