If I had to make a list of places in Twin Falls that would be best to avoid while committing a crime, the parking lot at 504 Gooding St. N. would be at the top of that list.
Why? Because that parking lot serves the Twin Falls County Jail, the Twin Falls County Court, the Twin Falls County Prosecutor’s Office and the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office.
The parking lot is constantly crawling with sheriff’s deputies, bailiffs, Twin Falls police officers and other law enforcement from around the Magic Valley, not to mention Sheriff Tom Carter and his top brass, Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs and his deputies as well as judges, lawyers and other powerful men and women.
So I was surprised Tuesday, while looking through the list of people who’d been arraigned that day, when I noticed a man was arrested in the court parking lot Monday, and I was shocked just minutes later when I noticed a second man, in a completely separate incident, had also been arrested there Monday.
Take a second to process that — two men, in separate incidents just a few hours apart, were arrested in the most powerful parking lot in Twin Falls, in the parking lot where it’s impossible to avoid law enforcement, lawyers and judges.
The first arrest was made about 11 a.m. when patrol officers spotted 20-year-old Jose Daniel Alvarez, of Buhl, sitting inside his car.
It’s not clear what brought Alvarez to the parking lot, but a Twin Falls police detective wrote in his sworn affidavit that there was a warrant to collect a DNA sample from Alvarez, and the detective had asked patrol officers to be on the lookout for him.
So when the officers spotted Alvarez in the parking lot, they told him to step out of the car and arrested him.
Again, I don’t know why Alvarez was in the parking lot — maybe he had gone to turn himself in on the warrant — but when police searched him, they reported finding a digital scale in his pocket with remnants of marijuana extract, known as marijuana butter or BHO.
Inside Alvarez’s car, officers found 11 grams of the highly-potent marijuana butter and “102 pieces of brightly colored paper,” which officers recognized as “possibly LSD or a synthetic hallucinogenic substance,” court documents said. The substance was wrapped in tin foil, which police say is common for transporting and selling LSD because it’s transdermal and shouldn’t be touched by skin.
Alvarez was arrested and booked into the jail — they didn’t have to take him far — and you would think that would have been the last arrest made in that parking lot Monday.
But that was not the case. A few hours later, about 3:20 p.m., police were dispatched to the parking lot for the report of a fight. There was no fight when the officers arrived, but there was, according to court documents, a very intoxicated man with “glassy and bloodshot eyes” who was slurring his speech and “appeared to be swaying back and forth.”
Police say this man was Lawrence Gene Essig, 37, of Twin Falls.
Essig told police the car he was standing next to was his, but said he didn’t drive it there. But a witness told police he saw Essig driving the car and officers also reported finding an open container of Canadian Mist whiskey in the passenger seat.
Essig would not give a breath sample, so police obtained a warrant to collect a blood sample to test his blood alcohol level that way. Essig was taken to the St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center for the blood draw, then taken back to 504 Gooding St. N. and booked into jail.
On Tuesday, both Alvarez and Essig were arraigned in Twin Falls County Magistrate Court, Alvarez on two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and Essig on a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence.
Alvarez is out of jail after posting $10,000 bond, while Essig is still being held in lieu of $10,000 bond. And both are presumably realizing that the parking lot that serves the most powerful people in Twin Falls was the wrong place to commit a crime.