EASTHAM — Around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 7, Eastham Police Det. Andi Murphy sent a series of texts, attempting to rendezvous with a man she believed might be in danger. Getting nowhere, she asked directly:
“Are you being held?? Why can’t you leave, just want to talk.”
“I’m trying to be discreet,” the man replied.
“Okay going to first encounter to get you now.”
When Murphy and Sgt. Reid Booth picked up Lukas Ackerman just past 3 p.m. that day, they learned of a story involving a narcotics operation, an illegally owned 12-gauge shotgun, and a potential hostage situation that would end with a Drug Enforcement Administration raid at 720 Herring Brook Road.
According to Det. Murphy’s official report filed at the Orleans District Court, the Eastham police had initially learned of Ackerman’s presence at 720 Herring Brook because his mother had made multiple calls to the DEA claiming that her son was being held hostage by one Greg Stratton. Mrs. Ackerman alleged that Stratton “is connected to the dark web and has ties to dangerous people in Boston,” Murphy’s report stated. Mrs. Ackerman also told the DEA that Stratton had an illegal firearm and she feared that he might kill her son if the police attempted to perform a wellness check.
Murphy learned that the younger Ackerman had come from Boston to live in the house in June. A friend of his, Ryan McCullough, who lives near Stratton, had told Ackerman he could live in the house rent-free, according to Murphy’s report.
Over the next few months, Ackerman performed manual labor for Stratton but did not hold a job, according to Murphy’s report. Before Ackerman was contacted by the Eastham police, Stratton began telling him that he owed over $1,000 in rent and threatening him, Ackerman told investigators. He was fearful of a firearm, which he told police he had seen Stratton cleaning on multiple occasions.
When Murphy and Booth picked up Ackerman on Sept. 7, they found glass vials in his pocket which contained liquid; it was mixed with heroin, Ackerman told them. According to Murphy’s report, the officers also found needles and a blue zippered bag that held a variety of loose pills, including Klonopin, and anti-convulsant that can be dangerous when combined with opioids.
Ackerman told the police that Stratton had given him the drugs. According to Murphy’s report, Ackerman also said Stratton was running a drug operation out of the house.
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the district court granted a search warrant, and at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday the Eastham police arrived at the scene, aided by the Cape Cod Regional Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, which was dispatched due to the presence of a firearm. Two people at the house, Stratton and Kerry Collier, complied when officers asked them to leave the residence and detained them, according to Murphy’s report.
Once inside, the SWAT team seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun from the bedroom. They then stumbled across what appeared to be a narcotics lab. Officers found chemicals, glass bottles, and funnels. Some pills sat in plain sight on the living room table. This prompted an evacuation of all officers from the premises.
“We’re not going to stand there — we don’t have respirators,” Eastham Police Chief Adam Bohannon told the Independent. When chemicals are involved, he said, the Drug Enforcement Administration takes the wheel.
Det. Murphy asked what Stratton was “cooking in his basement,” she reported. Stratton responded that he was making soap, and suggested that the officers should not be surprised to find lye when they searched the area. Lye is also a key ingredient involved in the production of crystal meth and the hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine, abbreviated as DMT.
At 11:30 a.m. that same day, a DEA clandestine lab team arrived to execute a second search warrant, confirming the presence of DMT chemicals, Chief Bohannon told the Independent. The DEA also located packaging materials, pointing to the sale of narcotics.
“Honestly, this was a little bit of a surprise for us,” said Bohannon. “We’ve never dealt with DMT before, so we needed to call the appropriate authorities and quickly educate ourselves on how to handle it. If you’re not willing to ask questions, it’s a quick way to fail.”
DMT is a powerful, short-acting hallucinogen. Users report drug experiences lasting as few as 15 minutes with hallucinogenic effects of equal or greater intensity as more recognizable, longer-lasting psychedelics such as psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms) or LSD, whose effects take place over the course of many hours.
According to Ackerman’s interview with the police, Stratton “sits on the computer all day,” dealing drugs. After taking orders online, Ackerman said, Stratton receives and ships packages “daily” from the North Eastham, Eastham, and Orleans post offices under the alias “A. Jones.” These shipments are so frequent that there is a living room table set up with packing materials, Ackerman told law enforcement. Stratton’s customers pay with cryptocurrency, he said.
Stratton was charged with illegal possession of a firearm, as well as a stun gun, which officers found on him during a pat frisk. Stratton has previously been convicted of armed and unarmed robbery and has faced multiple drug distribution charges in the past. He is currently being held at the Barnstable County jail without bail following a dangerousness finding. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Orleans.
John Gauthier, who lives across the street from the scene of the raids, told the Independent he woke up Wednesday night to the sound of voices blaring through a microphone, shouting, “Show me your hands! On the ground!” He figured it was an arrest for a DUI and went back to bed. The next morning’s news, he said, struck him as strange.
Gauthier identified the inhabitants of 720 Herring Brook Road as renters, not owners of the property, but said he did not know them personally. “I’d get up in the morning and get my paper at five or six o’clock, and I noticed that their TV was still on,” he recalled.
Gauthier’s wife, Deb, came home from the beach on Thursday to find vehicles lined up on the street — police cruisers, the DEA vehicle, the SWAT team, a number of SUVs. “Pretty weird,” she said.
Herring Brook Road is considered a quiet and safe neighborhood, residents said, one where they rarely lock their cars at night.
The Eastham investigation is open and active, and law enforcement officials expect to press additional charges.