‘Disappointing beyond measure’: New Jersey police officer charged with running meth lab from his home

LONG BRANCH, N.J. — A New Jersey police department is reeling following the arrest and suspension of one of its longtime officers after prosecutors said a meth lab was found at his home.

Christopher Walls, a 19-year veteran of the Long Branch Police Department, faces several charges related to manufacturing and operating a methamphetamine production facility. He also faces charges related to firearm possession and endangering the welfare of a child. Walls is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution.

“It’s still kind of a shock for all us,” said Thomas Shea, a retired internal affairs commander for the city department. “After working with the man for 15, 16 years, none of it makes sense.”

Police were called to the home of the 50-year-old police officer Saturday night for a domestic disturbance. While there, a resident told police that Walls was involved in “suspicious narcotics activity,” according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Suspended Long Branch Police Officer Christopher Walls is accused of running a meth lab from his Long Branch home. (Photo: Courtesy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

A police hazmat unit responded to the home Walls shared with his wife and child and found chemicals, materials and instruments commonly used in methamphetamine laboratories in Walls’ basement and in a shed on the property, Monmouth County prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a Sunday news release.

The hazmat unit also found meth residue in lab glassware on the property and books related to making methamphetamine, explosives and poison, the prosecutor said.

Officers also found a “large open and unsecured gun safe” in the house, despite a child living in the home, prosecutors said. Inside the safe were two long guns, four handguns, eight high-capacity magazines and ammunition.

Acting Long Branch Police Chief Frank Rizzuto suspended Walls without pay.

“The officers in our agency risk their lives daily to protect and serve our residents,” Rizzuto said in a statement. “It is disappointing beyond measure that one of our officers could have risked the safety of his family and neighbors by engaging in such dangerous conduct.”

The city’s police director will file disciplinary charges, moving to fire Walls, Long Branch Mayor John Pallone said in a statement. 

“The city has a no tolerance policy for any illegal activity committed by police officers,” Pallone said in the statement. “They must be held to the highest standard.”

Walls faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of operating a meth lab, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Police Director Domingos Saldida said Wells’ arrest does not jeopardize any of his cases and “has nothing to do with anything he was working on.” Saldida declined to discuss details of the case and to further discuss Wells.

When asked whether the department would make any changes in response to the arrest, he said, “We will.”

Meth lab chemicals can easily catch fire or explode if stored or handled incorrectly, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Thanks to the swift action of our office, the Long Branch Police Department, and the New Jersey State Police, a very serious risk to public safety has been averted,” Gramiccioni said. “The collaborative efforts of our agencies dismantled a very dangerous situation. It is particularly distressing that this hazard was caused by a sworn law enforcement officer.”

Follow Amanda Oglesby on Twitter at @OglesbyAPP.

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