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Man whose home is metal box in Vista park admits drug sales

Sixty-five-year-old man began career at 20

The property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy. He allowed Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash.
The property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy. He allowed Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash.

A man living in a metal shipping container in a Vista park was arrested this month after he sold drugs to undercover officers.

Officers say they were able to record a drug buy at nearby Wildwood Park.

James William Harris, 65, was reportedly living in the graffiti-decorated container located under shady trees near the entrance of the Vista Conservancy Walking Trail. The metal box is about 10 feet wide and 25 feet long and is hidden from a busy road yards away. The park is pretty, with lush shrubs and a year-round creek, it is located at 751 East Vista Way in Vista.

A sign at the Conservancy states it will be developed into living units.

Sheriff’s deputy A. Martinez had gotten a tip that someone was selling drugs and went to have a look. “The shipping container is locked with a padlock and I was unable to access it,” the deputy stated in his request for a search warrant. Although the double doors on the metal container were locked, the deputy said he was able to peek inside and see bedding and clothing and food and alcohol and tools.

The Vista Conservancy Walking Trail park is near a busy road.

The deputy discovered that the property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy, and that man allowed James Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash in the area.

“I learned Harris has a criminal history dating back to 1972,” deputy Martinez wrote in his affidavit, “burglary, auto theft, fraud, multiple selling narcotics, multiple possessions of controlled substance, possession of cocaine for sale and conspiracy to commit crimes. Harris’ last arrest was for selling controlled substance (methamphetamine) in 2014 at the same location he is believed to be selling now.” Apparently Harris was 20 years old when his criminal record began.

In the 2014 case Harris admitted felony possession of meth for sale. In that deal he got two years local jail plus one year mandatory community supervision; that supervision was expected to end in June of 2016.

Officers arranged what they call “a controlled buy” from Harris, two undercover officers first met with him near the metal container on June 23. The suspect told the “buyers” to meet him an hour later a half block down the street, at Wildwood Park. Officers recorded the buy of 0.172 grams of meth, for which they allegedly paid 18 dollars. Wildwood Park is located at 651 East Vista Way.

A search warrant was served the same day Harris was arrested. The items collected from the metal shipping container were: syringes, a bag containing a white crystalline substance, a scale, an LG cell phone, and baggies.

In court last week, on July 20, James William Harris admitted selling methamphetamine again. He acknowledged that he got no special deals from the prosecutor and that the judge will consider a custody range from two to six years.

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The property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy. He allowed Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash.
The property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy. He allowed Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash.

A man living in a metal shipping container in a Vista park was arrested this month after he sold drugs to undercover officers.

Officers say they were able to record a drug buy at nearby Wildwood Park.

James William Harris, 65, was reportedly living in the graffiti-decorated container located under shady trees near the entrance of the Vista Conservancy Walking Trail. The metal box is about 10 feet wide and 25 feet long and is hidden from a busy road yards away. The park is pretty, with lush shrubs and a year-round creek, it is located at 751 East Vista Way in Vista.

A sign at the Conservancy states it will be developed into living units.

Sheriff’s deputy A. Martinez had gotten a tip that someone was selling drugs and went to have a look. “The shipping container is locked with a padlock and I was unable to access it,” the deputy stated in his request for a search warrant. Although the double doors on the metal container were locked, the deputy said he was able to peek inside and see bedding and clothing and food and alcohol and tools.

The Vista Conservancy Walking Trail park is near a busy road.

The deputy discovered that the property is owned by the man who founded the conservancy, and that man allowed James Harris to use the container in exchange for picking up trash in the area.

“I learned Harris has a criminal history dating back to 1972,” deputy Martinez wrote in his affidavit, “burglary, auto theft, fraud, multiple selling narcotics, multiple possessions of controlled substance, possession of cocaine for sale and conspiracy to commit crimes. Harris’ last arrest was for selling controlled substance (methamphetamine) in 2014 at the same location he is believed to be selling now.” Apparently Harris was 20 years old when his criminal record began.

In the 2014 case Harris admitted felony possession of meth for sale. In that deal he got two years local jail plus one year mandatory community supervision; that supervision was expected to end in June of 2016.

Officers arranged what they call “a controlled buy” from Harris, two undercover officers first met with him near the metal container on June 23. The suspect told the “buyers” to meet him an hour later a half block down the street, at Wildwood Park. Officers recorded the buy of 0.172 grams of meth, for which they allegedly paid 18 dollars. Wildwood Park is located at 651 East Vista Way.

A search warrant was served the same day Harris was arrested. The items collected from the metal shipping container were: syringes, a bag containing a white crystalline substance, a scale, an LG cell phone, and baggies.

In court last week, on July 20, James William Harris admitted selling methamphetamine again. He acknowledged that he got no special deals from the prosecutor and that the judge will consider a custody range from two to six years.

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Comments
8

So, he'll get from two to six years of custody, which equals "three hots and a cot" every day, plus medical care. That, at his age, may be more attractive than staying in the shipping container.

July 23, 2017

Why didn't the conservancy founder check out that guy before allowing him to live there? He is partly to blame for the drug sales.

July 23, 2017

I'm partly sure it ain't legal to let someone dwell in a shipping container, regardless of their profession.

July 24, 2017

You can if it's been renovated, and turned into an actual residence on a lot somewhere, with utilities, sewage hookup, etc.

None

July 24, 2017

That's no longer a shipping container; just as a pile of shipping pallets turned into a fackin mansion is no longer a pile of shipping pallets.

July 24, 2017

Sounds to me like Harris bit the hand that fed him. Back in the day, being given permission to sleep in a barn or shed was better than nothing and something a transient could be grateful for. Unfortunately, life-long scum like Harris prove that we need rules against such kindness.

The conservancy head should be grateful Harris isn't a smarter criminal, or else he might have figured out how to shake him down with a lawsuit for endangerment, human confinement, squatters rights, unpaid wages, or some other trumped-up charge.

July 24, 2017

Let Harris back into his shipping container. Then weld the doors shut.

July 24, 2017

No problem just ship the old dirt bag off to San Diego and they will set him up in a nice new apartment.

July 25, 2017

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