WESTERLY — Westerly police said that the drug arrest that occurred Wednesday in the parking lot of the Center for Behavioral Health on Beach Street had nothing to do with the clinic itself.
“The clinic serves an important purpose in helping to address drug addiction and the opioid problem as whole,” Police Chief Richard Silva said Thursday. “It is unfortunate that the traffic stop, done as a proactive patrol effort, happened to lead to the activity in that particular lot.”
Officers initiated the traffic stop on Beach Street to serve a warrant on Justin M. Varas, 32, of 19 Ashaway Road, Westerly, as part of an ongoing drug investigation, the police said. He was charged Wednesday with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.
Varas was held overnight pending arraignment in Fourth Division District Court, and was also charged Thursday in connection with a drug investigation last September.
Two other Westerly residents, Ericha M. Hauser, 27, of 19 Ashaway Road, and Nicholas Mello, 34, of 21 Elm St., were charged with disorderly conduct. Hauser, a passenger in the car Varas was driving, was also charged with obstructing an officer.
According to a police report, an officer familiar with the Varas case tried to stop his car at about 10:45 a.m. Varas led officers a short distance before pulling into the clinic parking lot.
Silva said Varas attempted to avoid arrest and became combative. The police said Hauser also was uncooperative and caused a disturbance in the parking lot by trying to prevent the officer from serving the warrant. Backup arrived and both men were taken into custody.
Police said Mello, who was not in Varas’ car, had also been disruptive with the police investigation.
“Due to the attempt to resist and interfering, additional officers were called as backup. A K-9 was also called because of the nature of the arrest as a drug case,” Silva said, noting that the escalation of activity led to the large police presence.
Silva said that Varas had twice sold heroin to an undercover informant, and that was the basis for the arrest warrant — the latest in a series of drug charges and convictions dating to 2005.
According to police and court records, he was arrested by Hopkinton police on Jan. 29, based on state lab tests of material that was found in his car after a Sept. 29 traffic stop. Hopkinton Capt. Mark Carrier said the material, in two baggies, tested positive for fentanyl.
Varas was also charged last year with three counts of sale of a controlled substance related to an investigation into heroin sales in Westerly. In a plea agreement, that case was sealed until recently, when a re-arrest warrant was issued.
It was unclear through state records whether bond was set or if Varas had been released following arraignment.