Pills, powder and pot found in drug bust

A swarm of undercover police officers arrested nearly 60 individuals and seized more than a thousand Ecstasy pills at an all-ages rave at the Cow Palace during Memorial Day weekend — the fifth drug bust in as many years at the historic venue.

The San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force along with 20 other enforcement agencies, including the FBI, arrested 55 adults and three minors for alleged sale or possession of illegal drugs. Task force Cmdr. Mark Wyss said 115 police officers targeted the 15,000-person music festival, dubbed etd.POP 2008, which was held at the Cow Palace for the first time.

In one of the largest operations held at the Cow Palace during the last five years, police confiscated 1,041 Ecstasy tablets, ketamine, marijuana, methamphetamine, psychedelic mushrooms and more than $5,000 in cash.

Wyss said most of those arrested were from Southern California, the Sacramento area or from out of state. In 2003, he said, police arrested 61 individuals for drug-related charges at a rave held by a different organizer at the Cow Palace.

The 11th annual etd.POP, featuring several prominent DJs such as Tiësto, is organized by Skills DJ Workshop, a Berkeley-based promotional company.

Event spokesman Mark Rennie said the rave used to be held in San Francisco. He said organizers were aware of the drug bust and fully cooperated with the police.

“Young people experiment with drugs in concerts, and they have for 30 years, and they will continue to do that,” Rennie said. “We can educate the kids that we’re going to create such a great concert that you don’t have to be high to enjoy it and that there will be undercover agents, so don’t risk your future or your parents’ money by doing anything stupid.”

All suspects were booked into the San Mateo County jail and scheduled to be arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Daly City resident Phyllis Rizzi, who lives near the aging venue, said such events are bringing a bad element to the already underserved Bayshore neighborhood.

“In its present state, the Cow Palace is not a place of event quality any longer,” she said. “This is why we need redevelopment in this neighborhood.”

Cow Palace CEO Walter Haub said the drug busts don’t tarnish the 67-year-old venue’s reputation.

“I’d rather have them at the Cow Palace than in the back alley somewhere,” he said. “I’d be very happy to have them back next year.”

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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